James Packer set to marry in Scientology ceremony on French Riviera

A Scientology ceremony on board a luxurious yacht in the Mediterranean followed by a sumptuous hotel reception on the French Riviera … this seems as decent a bet as any on the highly secretive wedding of gambling mogul James Packer.

Exactly where, when and how the union takes place remain a mystery, but now that business has been taken care of, the time seems ripe.

Mr Packer has just sold control of the media empire he inherited from his grandfather Sir Frank and father Kerry to concentrate on his burgeoning gaming business.

And with media converging on the Cote d’Azur this weekend, hiring boats and helicopters, it’s a fair bet the marriage is imminent.

The intrigue has heightened public curiosity about the third engagement and second wedding of Australia’s richest man to model-turned-singer Erica Baxter.

Ms Baxter, 29, may be marrying for the first time, but it will be the second James Packer wedding she has attended.

Mr Packer, 39, never made it to the altar after his first engagement to actress Katie Fischer was called off in 1998, a year before his three-year marriage to swimsuit model Jodhi Meares.

His new bride, Ms Baxter, was a guest at that wedding, arriving on the arm of one of his closest friends, and is a former friend of his first wife, once modelling for her label.

Mr Packer’s second wedding clearly will be a far more private affair than the first.

That was a lavish bash at his family’s Bellevue Hill mansion in Sydney, where the entertainment was provided by Sir Elton John and guests including Prime Minister John Howard, News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch and movie star Nicole Kidman helped quaff 600 bottles of Dom Perignon champagne.

Not that any expense will be spared by a man whose fortune is worth more than $7 billion.

Newspapers have reported that two of the grandest hotels between Nice and Cannes have been booked out entirely by an unidentified client.

Media speculation has it that Mr Packer might marry aboard his palatial converted ice-breaker, the Arctic P, in light of laws requiring a 30-day residency before marriage on French soil.

Newspapers have also canvassed the possibility of a Scientology wedding, although some reports suggest a civil ceremony might also have to be held because France regards Scientology as a sect rather than a religion.

Guests almost certainly will include actor Tom Cruise and his wife Katie Holmes, fellow Scientologists whose wedding Mr Packer and Ms Baxter attended in Italy late last year.

Others on the list reportedly include Eddie McGuire, the face if no longer the boss of the Nine Network, cricketer Shane Warne and broadcaster Alan Jones, who MC’d Kerry Packer’s state funeral service 18 months ago.

Ms Baxter has said in recent interviews she has been trying to do much of the wedding organisation herself.

“I am not a particularly organised person, I can barely put a dinner party together, so that’s been a big challenge,” she said.

“I’m hoping to start delegating. It’s really hard. I never knew how much organisation goes into it.”

Ms Baxter, who has previously dated actors Russell Crowe and Jason Donovan, was parading the catwalks of Europe as a 16-year-old after being discovered by a modelling agent while standing on a Sydney train platform.

She has just launched a new career as a singer, releasing a CD called Through My Eyes.

She will walk down the aisle with her father Michael, a solicitor from Gunnedah in north western New South Wales.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday June 14, 2007.
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