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Kerry Packer passes away

Packer transformed the way cricket is played, making the game more TV-friendly for the media age.

world Updated: Dec 31, 2005 19:25 IST

Australia's richest man Kerry Packer, a pugnacious media mogul and bon vivant who had a passion for sport and gambling, died overnight in Sydney, his television network said on Tuesday. He was 68.

Channel Nine gave no reason for his death but Packer had been plagued by ill health for more than a decade, and had already cheated death in 1990 when his heart stopped for several minutes after he had an attack while playing polo.

"He died peacefully at home with his family at his bedside," it said.

Packer built a multi-billion dollar broadcast and publishing empire, and transformed the way international cricket is played, making the game more television-friendly for the media age.

His success in business was matched by a devil-may-care attitude, whether he was laughing at the slip-ups of competitors or shrugging off reports of his own heavy losses in casinos from Las Vegas to London.

"He was a man who you could truly say was larger than life," said business rival and fellow tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard also paid tribute to the mogul, who was ranked by Forbes magazine this year as the 94th richest man in the world with a fortune of some $5.2 billion.

"He was a great Australian. He was a larger-than-life character, and in so many ways he left his mark on the Australian community over a very long career in business," Howard told reporters.

Born on December 17, 1937, Packer inherited the family business, Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL), from his father Frank, a legendary newspaperman who was so penny-conscious that he sometimes refused to buy chairs -- or notebooks -- for his reporters.

Packer was not the type to back down from a challenge and when he was refused the broadcast rights to Australian Test cricket in 1977, he launched his own World Series Cricket, poaching some of the game's greatest stars.

It popularised the one-day version of the game although critics dismissed the colourful uniforms as 'pyjamas' and an insult to tradition.

The Australian and South African cricket teams observed a minute of silence before their second day of the second Test in Melbourne on Tuesday in honour of the late tycoon.

First Published: Dec 31, 2005 19:25 IST