Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), Nov. 24, 2002
By Annette Sharp
James Packer is receiving instruction from an elite order in the Church of Scientology.
The executive chairman of PBL and heir to Australia’s richest fortune is believed to have turned to the secretive organisation in an attempt to regain control of his life after suffering a crisis of confidence following the collapse of his marriage.
Scientology members include some of the world’s most powerful film stars, among them Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
In recent weeks Mr Packer has been attending self-help training sessions and has been seen at the Church’s Dundas campus.
On Friday, Mr Packer’s office did not return calls concerning the inquiry, and no-one was prepared to confirm reports that he is being counselled.
The Church has pulled a protective veil around its newest follower. “If anyone becomes a member, he would be entitled to his privacy,” Scientology spokesman Cyrus Brooks said on Friday.
But according to other Church sources Mr Packer, 35, has undertaken so-called auditing sessions in self-help and personal improvement. These sessions are designed to help build self-confidence, explain why personal relationships fail and assist people to reach their full potential.
It is understood Mr Packer was introduced by Hollywood actor Tom Cruise.
The PBL chief has developed a friendship with Los Angeles-based Cruise, who is an advocate of the Church’s doctrine.
Friends said the bond between the two men strengthened in the wake of the collapse of telephony company One.Tel last year and his separation from wife Jodhi in June.
Mr Packer has travelled frequently this year to Los Angeles, where the Church’s lavish Celebrity Centre has its headquarters. He has been attending counselling sessions lasting two to three hours a couple of times a week in Sydney.
Mr Packer has employed a Scientologist as his personal assistant at his home in Bondi. Her role is to manage his house.
The heir to a $7billion fortune, Mr Packer has been sighted at the Dundas campus, regarded as the Church’s key Sydney educational facility and home to many of its ministers and teachers.
The Church’s Sydney headquarters at Castlereagh Street in the CBD is only metres from PBL’s Park Street base.
The Church offers instruction on everything from self-esteem to business management. Mr Packer has not enrolled in any business management courses but is thought to be concentrating on learning to present himself and make a greater impact on people around him.
The Church, founded by science-fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, encourages loyalty by offering back-to-back courses to recruits battered by life experiences. “Once you do one course, there is always another,” said one former member who did not wish to be named. “That’s how the Church makes its money. By charging for each subsequent course.”
Other celebrity members include singer Kate Ceberano, Elvis Presley’s daughter Lisa Marie Presley and actors Kirstie Alley and Jenna Elfman.
A separate order exists for celebrities. Known as C-Org (celebrity organisation) it offers exclusive counselling and extra privacy.
It is understood Mr Packer is being counselled within the C-Org order.
The Church’s website claims the organisation can help “reunite a father and a son”.