James Packer sent a series of scathing emails to senior figures at Channel Nine in June and July, including Lisa Wilkinson and Karl Stefanovic, in regards to the channel’s investigative piece into the Crown casinos, titled Crown Unmasked.
Crown Unmasked was originally released in 2019 and is a joint piece between The Age, 60 Minutes and The Sydney Morning Herald that exposed “dodgy business partnerships through which it is linked to drug and sex traffickers and Chinese influence operations.” The explosive story revealed that Crown had “inappropriately close relationships with known criminal figures” and “had pressured Australian officials to fast-track visas for Chinese high-rollers through consulates in China.”
Subsequent stories regarding the matter have run over the past three years.
Now, Packer, who was the major shareholder in Crown until recently, has sent multiple emails over the past few months to express his disdain over James Chessell’s, a former foreign correspondent who runs The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, involvement in the piece.
Packer sent the emails to his former business partner Brett Ratner and CC’d in Peter FitzSimons, Lisa Wilkinson, Karl Stefanovic, James Chessell, Joe Aston, Matthew Grounds and Andrew Denton.
“I trust EVERYONE on this email chain EXCEPT for James Chessell,” he wrote in one of the emails reportedly seen by The Australian.
“For the record Crown Unmasked was a great story. Great journalism in the best sense. I will always be ashamed that some of the bad things that happened at Crown happened on my watch. Nick McKenzie definitely knew more about what was really happening at Crown than I did,” he wrote. The media tycoon added, “I am staggered that your moral compass points so far away from true north. I have nothing but contempt for you James [Chessell].”
In the series of emails, Packer made the stunning revelation: “‘You were my secret Crown lobbyist Peter [Costello, former Australian treasurer]. In 2011 I personally paid you $300K (CPH did anyway, you didn’t want the Crown directors to know) to lobby for me, for Crown”.
While Packer slammed Chessel, he praised the other journalists involved with the story. “Great journalism in the best sense, and Nick McKenzie should definitely win the Gold Walkley Award for best journalist, best story of the year,” he added.
However, Chessell has stood by the role he played in the piece, and commended the work behind Crown Unmasked. “We have received repeated complaints about our coverage from Mr Packer but it has not affected our independence or our accuracy,” he said on Saturday. Read some of the emails, as published by NT News below:
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