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James Packer and David Gyngell in ‘mad dog’ brawl
May 5, 2014 12:24 pm
Australian Billionaire James Packer and David Gyngell, CEO of Australian commercial broadcasting network Channel Nine, have said a violent street brawl between them in Bondi was part of the “ups and downs” of a 35-year friendship.
The former best mates came to physical blows in a public dispute that was captured by a photographer yesterday afternoon.
News Corp, publisher of The Australian, has bought the picture set of the punch-up. Tomorrow’s print and digital editions of The Australian will carry further images of the stoush, plus exclusive video will be available on our website tomorrow morning.
The explosive images show Packer and his former best man, Gyngell, locked in a head lock next to a brick wall on which Packer is then believed to have hit his head.
Gyngell returned to the scene of the stoush early this morning to break bread with Packer and massage the message, which reiterated they remained best friends after 35 years. Gyngell, who had shaved his beard and was dressed in a sharp blue suit and tie, told reporters nothing had changed in their relationship.
The joint statement issued through Nine said: “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.”
Later in the morning, News Corp non-executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch visited Packer’s Campbell Parade compound to see his friend.
A witness described the vicious brawl that erupted between them as “like two mad dogs going at each other’s throats.”
One of a handful of witnesses to the fight said Gyngell pulled up on Sir Thomas Mitchell Drive outside Packer’s house yesterday afternoon and engaged in a long and abusive phone call with an unnamed person.
The witness described Gyngell’s rage on the phone as “like a drunk” although it was around 2pm on a Sunday afternoon and there was no doubt he was in an uncontrollable rage, rather than drunk.
Gyngell threatened the caller, presumed to be Packer, and repeatedly said he was going to “punch him”.
The strength and anger in Gyngell’s voice roused a couple of neighbours normally immune to the fights and odd behaviour along the busy beachside strip.
Gyngell’s blind rage alerted a security guard from Packer’s compound who tried to calm him in the driveway.
Shortly after, Packer arrived, jumped out of the car and the two best friends came together and “just went at each other”, the witness said.
Packer’s security guard and driver both attempted to break up the fight, hanging off the backs of both big men but to little avail.
Incredibly, for a cold but sunny Bondi afternoon, the stoush only attracted a few onlookers, with one woman believed to have captured the fight on a phone and a paparazzo taking photographs that are expected to attract tens of thousands of dollars in a fierce media bidding war today.
The witness said the fight continued for “quite a while”.
A number of severe punches to the head connected and the two engaged in a head lock and wrestled each other to the ground.
The severe sound of one of the men’s heads hitting a brick fence appeared to bring the fight to a halt and the two friends parted. The duo later searched for something in the grass, believed to be a tooth.
The images suggest Gyngell hit his forehead on the fence.
The lifelong friendship between the two Sydney men was placed under particular strain after James Packer split from his second wife, Erica Baxter, last year. Gyngell had been best man at the couple’s wedding. The two men both attended Sydney’s Cranbrook school and Gyngell’s father Bruce had a long association with Packer’s father Kerry Packer, running his Nine Network for many years.
The sons fell out about six months ago after Gyngell, as his best mate, expressed his concerns about Packer walking out on his wife and children.
Packer is believed to have been extremely displeased with Gyngell’s intervention, and the pair are understood not to have spoken for a period.
Gyngell, the CEO of Nine Entertainment Co, and his wife Leila McKinnon are expecting their second child imminently.
Photographic agency Media Mode is shopping the images of the brawl around today.
“Life-long friends seem to be friends no more!” the captions on the images proclaim. “The men wrestled for 5 minutes on the pavement before being separated by Packer’s security team.”
Eyewitness reports on Facebook of the vicious exchange said the pair were “going toe-to-toe” in a “big street fight”.
“Packer (packed) a punch but copped a couple of hits straight to the jaw,” according to one account. “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....”
Gyngell appears to have headed back to his home. Later a man who appears to be a doctor was photographed attending Packer’s home. - The Australian
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