27 November 2011

On cricket, gambling and taxes - the Kerry Packer version

With the Proteas and the Aussies doing battle a reputable publication like the CDH Tax Alert must certainly have something on cricket.

But since the Tax Alert is supposed to deal with tax issues there should probably be something on that topic too... otherwise the editor might just lift his finger. Here we go:

Kerry Packer, the larger than life Australian, brought the world the World Series of Cricket in the late seventies. The Nine Television cricket rights deal led to a confrontation with the cricket authorities as top international players deserted their international sides to join Packer.

So, in 1976, Packer found himself negotiating the right to televise Test matches with the Australian Cricket Board. He is quoted to have said to the Board: "There is a little bit of the whore in all of us, gentlemen. What is your price?"

Packer not only was a hard-edged negotiator. His gambling exploits were legendary.

On a visit to Las Vegas, Packer was approached by a Texan who made a nuisance of himself. When asked to leave, the Texan apparently asked Packer "Do you know who I am?", to which the Australian replied "No." The Texan: "I happen to be worth $100 million." Packer's response: "Toss you for it, mate."

So what can Packer teach us about taxes?

In 1991 Packer faced a House of Representatives Select Committee on Print Media. He was alleged to have some secret control over the content of the Fairfax papers (which Packer wanted to buy but could not due to media ownership restrictions). Reference was made to his company's tax minimisation strategies. Packer's retort:

"Of course I am minimising my tax. And if anybody in this country doesn't minimise their tax, they want their heads read, because as a government, I can tell you you're not spending it that well that we should be donating extra!"

When Packer died he was mourned with a minute's silence at the MCG as one of the most influential figures in the history of cricket.

Johan van der Walt

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