James Packer Plans a Las Vegas Project on the Site of New Frontier Casino
Australian casino gaming billionaire James Packer’s company bought a site on Las Vegas Boulevard in hopes of breaking into the US gaming market. Packer is the CEO of the Crown Limited Group, the leading casino gaming developer in Australia. He paid $260 million for the 34.6-acre vacant site once occupied by New Frontier Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, which closed in 2007.
To build his American casino (perhaps called “Crown Las Vegas”), James Packer is partnering ith Andrew Pascal on a joint venture, called Oaktree Capital Management. Andrew Pascal is the former president of the Wynn Las Vegas casino. Crown Resorts has been publicized as the buyer of the land.
Fountainebleu Las Vegas
This is not James Packer’s first attempt to own a casino in Las Vegas. He was developing a property on the Las Vegas Strip in 2008, when the Global Recession brought most development in the country to a halt. The development company in that case, Fontainebleau Las Vegas, planned on a $2.9 billion, 3,815-room resort. Building stopped on the project in summer of 2009, and the various developers ended up in a lawsuit which stretched on for years.
Despite the setback in 2008-09, Packer remains determined to make Crown Limited one of the world’s leading international gaming company. With the success he’s seen over the past handful of years, he appears ready to add the United States to the list of his gaming regions.
Son of Kerry Packer
James Packer comes from a quite public, very wealthy family back in Australia. He is the son of media mogul Kerry Packer, the larger-than-life and sometimes abrasive CEO of Australia’s Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBL). When he died in 2005, Kerry Packer was worth $6.5 billion.
Two years later, James Packer sold his interest in much of the family’s generational media empire in order to focus on the gambling industry. Some financial experts and Australian elitists sneered at James Packers’ decision in 2007. When his initial forays into building his own developments met with failure, their opinions seemed justified. By 2010, James Packers is thought to have lost about half of the family fortune, down to perhaps $3 billion.
Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth
The turnaround has been astounding, though. James Packer’s Crown Melbourne and Crown Perth remained strong, while he’s added the soon-to-be Crown Sydney to his Aussie gaming properties. Even more important, Crown’s decade-old partnership with the Hong Kong-based gaming company, Melco, has proven to be a major boon.
Crown Melco and Financial Resurgence
Crown Melco now owns several casinos and hotels in Macau. Like the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Macau has proven to be a cash cow for James Packer and Lawrence Ho, the CEO of Crown Melco and son of Stanley Ho (“The King of Gambling”). Developments in the Philippines and Sri Lanka are well under way, while Crown Melco also hopes to be one of the leading developers, if Japan ever legalizes casino gambling. Crown Limited also owns gaming property in London. Few of Packer’s competitors have as much cash to invest.
These days, James Packer is reputed to be worth $7 billion, making him the richest man in Australia. In a country with far fewer billionaires than the United States, Packer’s wealth makes him a celebrity in his home country. In recent months, he’s been romantically linked with Aussie Victoria’s Secret model, Miranda Kerr, after her divorce from actor Orlando Bloom went final. Kerr recently denied those rumors (in a roundabout way), while acknowledging the two have been friends for years.
Oaktree Capital Management
Now James Packer is co-chairman of Oaktree Capital Management, his next attempt to become an American casino owner. With massive stores of cash from his Macau and Australian gaming ventures, the going should be much better this time around. In recent interviews, Packer spoke respectfully of his love for Las Vegas.
Packer was quoted saying, “You can’t be in the gaming industry and not have a special reverence for Las Vegas. That’s where it all began. As we have built Crown Resorts into a thriving international company with successful casino ventures in Australia, Macau, and London, we’ve always kept our eye on Las Vegas.”
He added, “And while we fell short in past attempts to enter that market, we now have the ideal opportunity with a great local partner in Andrew, a leading financial investor in Oaktree, and the perfect piece of property.”
Andrew Pascal is Co-Chairman
Andrew Pascal, of whom Packer discussed, is a longtime Las Vegas executive who brings to the partnership his knowledge of the inner workings of Nevada’s gaming industry.
Pascal recently told the AFP News, “For over 25 years, I’ve studied the ever shifting Las Vegas landscape. I’ve always been inspired by this city’s capacity for reinvention. I’m excited to have my hand in crafting something new and fresh for the resurgent Las Vegas market.”
When asked for a projected timeline, the Oaktree Capital Management co-chairman say they hope to break ground on the development in 2015 and open the new casino’s doors in 2018.
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