R.C. Packer; Publisher in Australia, U.S.

From Times staff and wire reports

Robert Clyde Packer, a former magazine publisher and brother of Australia’s richest man, has died. He was 65.

Packer died Sunday at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, reportedly of heart and lung failure.

He was the son of Sir Frank Packer, who built the family’s huge media and business empire, Australian Consolidated Press, and was groomed to succeed him.

But he fell out with his father over plans for an interview with labor union leader Bob Hawke in 1972 on the family’s Channel 9 network. At the time of the family dispute, Robert Packer was board chairman of the network. Hawke later went on to become prime minister of Australia.


After his father blocked the interview, Robert Packer resigned and moved to the United States to live and set up his own publishing enterprises.

His departure left the way open for his younger brother Kerry to take control of the family business after their father’s death. Kerry Packer, 62, now runs a media empire that has earned him a personal fortune estimated at $4.1 billion, making him the richest man in his country.

In California, Robert Packer established his Santa Barbara-based Western Empire Publishers Inc., producing such surfing magazines as Bodyboarding and Surfing. He sold the business in 1997 because of failing health.

Originally from Sydney, he was a lawmaker for 12 years in the Legislative Council, the upper house of the New South Wales state parliament, during the 1960s and 1970s.