Heinz - Is James Packer Planning a Bid?

17 March 2006

Little doubt about one thing.

Since the death of Australian gambling-to-media tycoon Kerry Packer late last year, son James, inheritor of the Publishing & Broadcasting empire, is determined to prove himself a chip off the old block.

Already this month, he has landed a A$1.2 billion casino licence in Macau, launched a global hedge fund and poured A$70 million into a property development on Australia's Gold Coast.

And now, speculation from within P&B's corridors of power is that Packer is eyeing the currently less-than-buoyant H J Heinz sauce and condiments group. The source of this rumor is the cosy friendship extant for many years between Kerry Packer and US corporate raider Nelson Peltz.

Heinz is firmly fixed in the latter's sights. Last week his investment vehicle Trian Partners Master Fund - which already holds a substantial (but unspecified) stake in Heinz - nominated Peltz himself plus four others as candidates for election to Heinz' board of directors [WAMN: 08-Mar-06].

One of the four additional nominees is Australian professional golfer Greg Norman, whose business experience is limited to the design of golf courses and the touting of sportswear bearing his name. He is, however, since 1984, a close friend of the Packer family.

Meantime James Packer has been raising money for a new investment fund (purpose unspecified) which - alongside his relationships with Peltz and Norman - has sent the rumor mill into overdrive.

Many onlookers Down Under are now convinced that the Packer family's private Consolidated Press Holdings is poised to buy a significant stake in the $12.7 billion (A$17.2bn; €10.45bn; £7.24bn) US foods titan.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff