POLICE have fined one of Australia’s richest businessmen and a top television executive $500 (£280) each for a high-profile street fight in an exclusive Sydney beachside suburb.
Media across Australia have published photographs and video of casino mogul James Packer, 46, and his longtime friend, David Gyngell, 48, the chief executive of Nine Entertainment, punching and grappling with each other outside Packer’s luxury apartment at Bondi Beach on Sunday afternoon. Packer is the son of the late television tycoon and cricket promoter Kerry Packer, who prior to his death in 2005 was one of Australia’s most influential figures.
The pair were reportedly “fighting like dogs” on a pavement at the popular resort over claims about Packer’s marriage breakdown and his rumoured romance with former Victoria’s Secret model Miranda Kerr, 31, Network Ten reported.
New South Wales state police launched an investigation in response to the reports and public criticism of the violence, although no-one made an official complaint.
Gyngell released a statement on Tuesday taking blame for the fight because he had gone to Packer’s home “in an angry mood”.
But neither has confirmed or denied if the brawl was, in fact, over Ms Kerr.
Witnesses reported earlier this week that Gyngell waited sitting on the boot of his car outside Packer’s home at 2pm on Sunday and was heard shouting into his mobile that he was waiting for Packer.
Packer arrived 20 minutes later, and the men started shouting profanities at one another.
One onlooker later told Network Ten that it was not long before before the pair “went at it hammer and tongs”.
Police said in a statement that both men had been issued with a criminal infringement notice for offensive behaviour.
They can either pay the fine issued yesterday or fight the charge in court.
Police had been considering more serious charges of assault and affray.
A conviction for array – an offence that usually involves a public disturbance with a threat of violence – can carry a ten-year prison sentence, while an assault conviction can result in up to five years in prison.
Photographs of Packer after the fight show he had a black eye and swelling to the left side of his face.
Police had invited both men through their lawyers to make statements.
Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Walton said on Wednesday would not say whether either had accepted the invitation, adding that the police could not compel them to be interviewed.
Brendan Beirne, the photographer who reportedly sold his photographs for more than $200,000 (£110,000) after News Corp outbid Gyngell’s television network for the images, said that he had provided investigators with his pictures as well as a sworn witness statement.
Packer is chairman of Crown Resorts and has interests in casinos in Australia, Macau and Manila.
Forbes magazine has listed him as Australia’s third-richest person – worth an estimated $6.6 billion.
Gyngell and Packer have been friends since high school and have been the best man at each other’s weddings.
They issued a joint statement on Monday claiming that they remained friends.