Packer backs away from talk of reclaiming ailing Nine

BILLIONAIRE media heir James Packer has moved to quash suggestions his Consolidated Press Holdings was poised to pounce on the ailing Nine Network, telling an audience of Perth business leaders free-to-air television was not on his radar "at the moment".

BILLIONAIRE media heir James Packer has moved to quash suggestions his Consolidated Press Holdings was poised to pounce on the ailing Nine Network, telling an audience of Perth business leaders free-to-air television was not on his radar "at the moment".

Mr Packer, who owns 9 per cent of Ten Network, sought to distance himself from rumours he was poised to take back the debt-laden Nine Entertainment that he sold to private equity group CVC Asia Pacific at the top of the market in 2006.

Nine's woes since have sparked talk Mr Packer may want to repurchase the network, in the process emulating the feat of his late father Kerry, who sold Nine to Alan Bond only to repurchase it for a fraction of the price when Mr Bond's empire was crumbling.

"In the free-to-air space, which our family has been associated with historically, Kerry [Stokes, Seven West Media chairman], Peter [Seven Group chief executive] Gammell] and [Seven West chief executive] David Leckie ... have done an amazing job taking the Seven Network to where it is today," Mr Packer said.

"I can't see us as a company going back aggressively into the free-to-air industry at the moment. Seven's position is too strong."

It comes as CVC struggles to restructure Nine's near-$4 billion debt load, which is being haggled over by hedge funds and a group of Nine's original lenders.

CVC has insisted there is no urgency to refinance before Nine's February 2013 deadline, providing the network remains within its banking covenants.

Mr Packer made the comments yesterday after unveiling plans to rebrand the Burswood Entertainment Complex as Crown Perth, in line with the Melbourne and Macau operations, in a bid to attract a higher share of the lucrative VIP market from Asia.

The name change will bolster Crown's ability to compete against emerging regions.

The West Australian

Related Articles