A sunny, if chilly, Sunday afternoon on a quiet street in Sydney’s cosmopolitan Bondi Beach area. Two 40-something men are engaged in a violent street brawl, which only ends when they are pried apart by a shocked bodyguard.
It’s a scene that might play out in a Brett Ratner movie. Instead, the action centers on Ratner’s real-life Australian partner in RatPac Entertainment, billionaire gambling magnate James Packer, and his childhood friend and Nine Entertainment CEO, David Gyngell.
By midday Monday local time, the fallout from their brawl had drawn in News Corp deputy chair Lachlan Murdoch, who is a close friend of Packer’s, and model Miranda Kerr, among others.
The Aussie media was transfixed on Monday when eyewitness accounts of the two executives’ violent encounter — which reportedly left Packer with a black eye and Gyngell missing a tooth — emerged online. Fifty graphic images of the fight were shopped to news outlets by local agency Media Mode, with The Guardian Australia reporting that they’d been sold for AU$200,000 ($185,000) to News Corp Australia. Lachlan Murdoch was seen entering Packer’s apartment at around lunchtime, shortly before News Corp was revealed as the photos’ buyer.
Packer and Gyngell were said to have held “peace talks” at Packer’s apartment Monday morning, afterward releasing a statement that downplayed the incident.
“We have been friends for 35 years and still are. In that time we have had our fair share of ups and downs. We respect each other and neither of us will be commenting further,” the three-line statement read.
News outlets that had seen the photos were graphic in their descriptions.
Fairfax Media said the photos “show the two men squaring off, tugging at each other’s shirts and grappling before falling to the ground and wrestling. Other men — possibly Packer’s bodyguards — intervene while the fighters are upright as well as when they are on the ground.”
Seven Network News reporter Chris Reason tweeted that he’d seen the photos, describing them as “extraordinary.”
“Gyngell bearded and barefoot, Packer black eye, both in head locks on ground” he wrote.
The Guardian Australia reported that the fight was instigated by a Nine Network News truck parked near Packer’s apartment block. Packer, according to the Guardian and quoting Nine sources, believed that the truck was waiting to record footage of him and possibly Miranda Kerr, who arrived in Australia this week. Gyngell is said to have reassured Packer that the locked truck was parked outside a Nine Network employee’s residence, co-incidentally on the same street as Packer’s apartment.
Kerr has been linked by tabloids to Packer in the months since his split from wife Erica Baxter nine months ago, and hers from actor Orlando Bloom. Kerr has denied being anything other than friends with Packer.
Fairfax Media said the fight was indicative of a deepening personal rift between the two Australian business chiefs.
By midafternoon News Corp outlets had tweeted heavily watermarked images of the brawling pair. Earlier, News Network’s Australian news site, news.com.au, ran an unbylined opinion piece, headlined “Why James Packer and David Gyngell Owe the Public an Apology.”