JAMES Packer has revealed that a series of frightening panic attacks and feelings of depression and paranoia led him to suddenly resign from all of his public commitments earlier this year and for the first time publicly acknowledge his battle with mental health issues.
Speaking about his revelation that rocked the business world, the billionaire said he had not consumed a drink during 2018 after years of battling alcohol addiction, which made him desperately worried when he was suddenly hit by bouts of panic and paranoia in mid-March this year.
“I have been sober during 2018. In March this year I was experiencing major panic attacks and felt extremely depressed and paranoid. It was scary, very scary – especially as I was sober and thought I had been improving. It is very hard to come to any other conclusion than my problems and condition were not getting better; it felt like they were getting worse. I was desperately worried,’’ Mr Packer says in a new biography of his life.
“That is why I got off the Crown board (his casino company Crown Resorts) and why I said what I said publicly. I feel fine now. There are a lot of moments where I regret getting off the Crown board, because I think I am fine. But I have crossed that bridge and I know I can’t keep jumping on and off the board. Maybe I still have one more run left in me.”
In 2016 his break up with pop star Mariah Carey, the bitter division of his father’s estate with his sister, being drawn into a political corruption investigation by the Israeli authorities, and the arrest of Crown staff in China – which led to the abandonment of its global casino dreams – combined to leave Mr Packer battling the third mental breakdown of his life.
He suffered similar breakdowns after losing hundreds of millions of dollars on the One.Tel disaster in 2001 and billions during the GFC. But this time around Mr Packer said he had lost something far more important than money.
“I haven’t actually had a company threatening financial loss this time. I lost $100 million on RatPac, but that was basically it, and I made $100 million in the US at the same time on other investments. Macau is so heartbreaking because I lost my reputation, and serious people treat me differently, both because of the charges that were levied against our staff in China and because we sold out of Macau,” he said.
“This time I have lost my reputation globally. I am not sure how easy it is to get it back a fourth time. I am really not sure.”
The Price of Fortune: The Untold Story of Being James Packer by Damon Kitney will be published by HarperCollns Australia on October 22.