We’re still friends, insists billionaire tycoon James Packer after ‘fist fight’ with Nine Network chief
News Corp buys photos for rumoured HK$1.43m of lifelong friends 'fighting like two mad dogs'
Agence France-Presse in Sydney
Billionaire gambling tycoon James Packer and his one-time best man, the head of Australia's Nine Network, have insisted they were still friends despite being involved in an ugly punch-up at Sydney's Bondi Beach.
The Sydney Morning Herald said more than 50 images show Packer, 46, and David Gyngell throwing and receiving punches and wrestling on the ground on Sunday afternoon.
It sparked a bidding war for the photos, which Rupert Murdoch's News Corp won, for a rumoured A$200,000 (HK$1.43 million), publishing the first four pictures online late yesterday, with the rest expected to be splashed across the major Australian News Corp newspapers today.
"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," Packer and Gyngell said in a joint statement as News Corp non-executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch arrived at the Packer compound. He and Packer are also friends and former business partners.
Bondi resident Chris Walker, who said he witnessed the incident, tweeted about a "massive street fight" outside Packer's multimillion dollar home.
"Holy crap, big street fight outside my house... Not thugs, James Packer... And some other angry bloke going toe-to-toe - total brawl... Wow," he said.
"Packer packered a punch but copped a couple of hits straight to the jaw... Then they all fell on the concrete fence and I think the other guy broke his face.
"They were looking for teeth after he left... I was so thrilled, with a camera in my hand I didn't take a pic," he added.
Holy crap, big street fight outside my house ... Not thugs, James Packer ... And some other angry bloke going toe... http://t.co/FK7LwzlbpP
— Chris Walker (@CW_Innerwealth) May 4, 2014
One other witness told The Australian newspaper that the fight was "like two mad dogs going at each other's throats", while another said Gyngell was engaged in an abusive phone call - reportedly to Packer - immediately before he arrived.
The first pictures showed the pair - Packer in a baseball cap and sunglasses and Gyngell unshaven and barefoot - brawling before the Nine executive was restrained on the ground by a security guard.
The Sydney Morning Herald said Gyngell was waiting outside Packer's house as the casino mogul was chauffeured home after flying into Sydney Airport on his private jet.
It cited witnesses saying no pleasantries were exchanged when Packer saw him, but rather a flurry of profanities broke out before the punches started flying.
Reports said the pair's lifelong friendship - they attended the same exclusive school, and their fathers were friends - soured after Packer and his second wife, Erica, separated six months ago. Gyngell reportedly confronted Packer regarding his decision to leave his wife, something the magnate did not appreciate.