James Packer has sold his stake in the Hollywood film company RatPac Entertainment to fellow billionaire Len Blavatnik, the Ukrainian-born former oil tycoon and boss of Access Industries and Warner Music.
Packer formed RatPac in December 2012 with filmmaker Brett Ratner, its name a portmanteau of the first syllables of both of their last names.
The idea was to produce independent films while co-producing blockbusters with major studios, and it hit the ground running.
In 2013 RatPac joined forces with Dune Entertainment and entered into a 75-film co-financing partnership with Warner Bros. Its first film, Gravity, took over US$100 million at the box office in its first five days and won seven Academy Awards.
In all, the company, as RatPac-Dune, has been nominated for 21 Academy Awards, 17 BAFTAs, seven Golden Globes and three Australian Academy Awards through its financing and producing of movies such as The Revenant, Birdman, Creed, The Lego Movie, American Sniper, Kong: Skull Island and Godzilla.
Financial terms between Packer and Blavatnik have not been disclosed, but many are interpreting this as Packer’s final bow on the international stage.
International Ambitions Shattered
Just three years ago, he was dreaming of transforming Crown Resorts into a major international player but the vision was shattered last October by the arrest in China of 14 Crown employees, suspected of marketing casino services to VIPs on the Chinese mainland.
Crown Resorts made a dramatic U-turn on its global expansion strategy, suddenly and unexpectedly retreating from both Las Vegas and Macau, the two biggest gambling hubs in the world.
Packer drastically reduced his stake in Melco Crown, the joint venture with Lawrence Ho’s Melco International, which was devoted to exploring the creation and operation of spectacular integrated casino resorts in Macau and elsewhere in Asia.
Their final project was Studio City Macau, a $4.5 billion resort that mingled television and film production facilities with retail, fine dining and gaming and benefited from the RatPac connection.
Studio City’s opening night even came with its very own movie, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio.
“Epic Garage Sale”
At the same time, Packer pulled out of the Alon project in Las Vegas, as he sought to reduce and manage Crown Resorts’ debts and exposure to risk around the world, preferring instead to concentrate on projects closer to home.
He even got rid of his expensive American superstar fiancee, Mariah Carey.
It is, as The Australian succinctly put it this week, a “corporate and personal garage sale of epic proportions,” and the speculation is that Packer, who has recently been dividing his time between the Colorado ski resort of Aspen and Los Angeles, is coming home to roost.