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Billionaire James Packer and Wife Erica Baxter Separate

Australian gaming billionaire James Packer and wife Erica Baxter have separated.

Packer, 45, is the nation’s second-richest individual with a net worth of $5.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He is the largest shareholder of Crown Ltd. (CWN), the country’s biggest casino operator. Baxter, 36, is a former model and singer. The couple were married six years ago and have three children. It is Packer’s second marriage.

“We remain deeply close friends and incredibly proud parents and our children are our priority going forward,” Packer and Baxter said in a joint statement.

Melbourne-based Crown operates two gaming resorts in Australia, one in London and two in Macau through Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. (MPEL), a joint venture with Lawrence Ho, son of Hong Kong gambling pioneer Stanley Ho. Packer wants to build a $1.2 billion six-star casino-resort complex along Sydney Harbour that would cater to VIP players from China.

Packer was born into a media dynasty started by his grandfather, Sir Frank Packer, and expanded father Kerry Packer. The Packers built their wealth through Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd., owner of Australia’s biggest magazine publisher.

Although a legendary gambler, Kerry opposed investing in casinos. In 1999, James convinced his father to buy Crown Casino, Australia’s largest, and in 2004, teamed up with Stanley Ho to expand in Macau. Kerry Packer died the following year.

James Packer inherited the family business at 38. In three years, he sold most of his family’s broadcasting and publishing stakes, as well as its cattle ranches, for more than $5 billion. He increased the family’s stake in Crown, and became the company’s controlling shareholder in December 2012.

His first marriage in 1999 was to model Jodhi Meares. They divorced in 2002.

To contact the reporters on this story: Joe Schneider in Sydney at jschneider5@bloomberg.net; David Fickling in Sydney at dfickling@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Patrick Chu at pachu@bloomberg.net

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