Australian Billionaire James Packer, Key Figure in Netanyahu Bribery Probe, Quits Own Company

Packer, suspected of lavishing expensive gifts on the Israeli premier and his family in return for favors, quits the board of his private company after stepping down from other affairs over 'mental illness'

Australian gambling tycoon James Packer.
\ Dinuka Liyanawatte/ REUTERS

Australian billionaire James Packer has quit the board of his private company Consolidated Press Holdings (CPH), a spokesman said on Monday, four months after he left the board of casino operator Crown Resorts Ltd citing mental illness.

Packer, 50, "has stepped off the CPH Board as he continues his recovery from illness", a spokesman for Consolidated Press Holdings said in an email. CPH owns 46 percent of Crown, the world's seventh-largest listed casino company. 

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The exit appears to complete Packer's winding down from day-to-day corporate responsibilities following a tumultuous period. 

Packer is embroiled in what Israeli police have dubbed 'Case 1000'- an investigation involving suspicion that the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sara received expensive gifts such as champagne and cigars from wealthy businessmen. Packer's name, as well as that of his affiliate Arnon Milchan, the Israeli Hollywood mogul, have both been linked to the affair.

The Netanyahus haven't disputed that they got lavish gifts from two wealthy friends, but they vehemently deny the presents were in exchange for political favors such as promoting the two moguls’ business interests, or for obtaining visas.

Packer’s generosity was also directed toward the Netanyahus’ eldest son, Yair – free airplane flights and five-star hotel rooms – as well as tickets for all of the Netanyahus to a concert by Packer’s ex-fiancée, Carey.

The 50-year-old formed Crown after selling his late father's media empire a decade ago, then built it up before quitting in 2015 amid heavily publicized personal upheaval including a brief engagement to singer Mariah Carey.

 He rejoined Crown a year later during a period of turmoil for the company when a dozen and a half of its employees were jailed in China for alleged breach of gambling marketing laws there. He stayed with Crown for 14 months before quitting again in March.