Australia tycoon tied to PM graft probe quits family firm, citing mental health
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Australia tycoon tied to PM graft probe quits family firm, citing mental health

Billionaire James Packer steps down from Consolidated Press Holdings months after also resigning as director of his gaming empire

Melco Crown Entertainment co-chairman James Packer speaks during a news conference of the Studio City project in Macau, October 27, 2015. (Kin Cheung/AP)
Melco Crown Entertainment co-chairman James Packer speaks during a news conference of the Studio City project in Macau, October 27, 2015. (Kin Cheung/AP)

SYDNEY, Australia — Australian tycoon James Packer has quit his family firm Consolidated Press Holdings as he recovers from mental health issues, a spokesman said Monday, months after he stepped down from gaming empire Crown Resorts.

Packer was questioned by police in December over a corruption probe involving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is suspected of receiving illicit luxury gifts from wealthy supporters.

Packer is not suspected of criminal conduct in either Israel or Australia in the case.

Packer’s departure from his private investment vehicle is the latest step by one of Australia’s richest people — who has previously spoken about his battles with depression — to walk away from his business commitments.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly government conference at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on July 8, 2018. ( Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

“Mr. Packer has stepped off the CPH board as he continues his recovery from illness,” a spokesman for the firm said in a brief statement.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) told AFP Packer resigned from the board on June 27, with the notice confirmed to the corporate regulator on Friday.

The 50-year-old son of the late publishing and gaming mogul Kerry Packer abruptly departed Crown in March, citing “mental health issues.” CPH is Crown’s largest shareholder.

With a personal fortune estimated at Aus$3.9 billion (US$2.9 billion), Packer had long controlled the two companies built up by his family over three generations.

He had only returned to the Crown board last year after earlier moving aside to focus on international interests.

The decision comes after a series of turbulent business and personal struggles for Packer.

The Australian had a high-profile engagement with US music diva Mariah Carey before the couple split in 2016.

Police investigators arrive at the prime minister’s resident in Jerusalem to interrogate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, March 2, 2018 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Around the same time, 19 Crown current and former employees were held for 10 months in China on charges of illegally luring rich Chinese to gamble in Australia.

Crown was also in the process of divesting from its international holdings to focus on its casinos in Melbourne and Perth, as well as a new gaming resort in Sydney.

Packer checked himself into a psychiatric hospital in the US just days after resigning from Crown’s board, the Sydney Morning Herald reported then, adding that he had stayed there for six weeks seeking treatment.

The newspaper reported in late June that he was now spending time in the French Riviera with his current girlfriend, New York socialite Kylie Lim.

In what is known as Case 1000, Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are suspected of receiving illicit benefits amounting to some NIS 1 million ($282,000) worth of lavish gifts from the Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Packer, allegedly in return for certain benefits.

Police have recommended indicting Netanyahu in the case.

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