Why Gyngell took a fall for Packer

The fallout from the weekend's public punch-up between billionaire James Packer and Nine Entertainment boss David Gyngell has all the hallmarks of a public relations stitch up -- where Packer plays the victim and Gyngell falls on his sword.

The word from Gyngell's bunker is that he is prepared to cop a clip over the ears from the police if that is the way it plays.

Over the past 48 hours the tone of the debate over who was at fault has changed considerably. Initial reports on Monday seem to have favoured Gyngell (the little guy) who was fighting the ethical/moral cause on the side of Packer's former wife, Erica Baxter.

Placing the main blame at Gyngell's feet all but ignores the pictorial evidence of Packer pinning the smaller Nine Entertainment boss to the pavement and being ultimately pulled off by bodyguards.

The trouble for Gyngell is that Packer has more powerful allies in the media - Seven Network's largest shareholder Kerry Stokes and News Corp's co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch both held meetings with Packer in the days following the fight.

Meanwhile, News Corp's tabloid, The Daily Telegraph, carried the front page headline on Wednesday I'M THE THUG, alongside a photo of Gyngell.

(Incidentally there is no love lost between Gyngell and either the Murdochs or Stokes.)

But strangely enough Packer's biggest advocate this week has been Gyngell who himself took responsibility for the fight - mainly because he went to Packer's house and waited for him to return.

In doing so it appears that Gyngell has become the self inflicted fall guy for Packer who would have more to lose if he was convicted of any criminal offence.

At risk for Packer are the allocation of a casino licence at Barangaroo in Sydney in addition to his plans to develop casinos in Sri Lanka and potentially get a foothold in the Japanese market.

The Gyngell camp is adamant that his admitting to instigating the fight was not part of a plan to mitigate the fallout for Packer. His allies seem to think he is genuine about taking the blame and say he believes he has disappointed himself and his family. And he is sticking to the story that Packer is as close as family and the relationship will survive the brawl. Indeed, inside sources said the two men spent an hour on the phone Tuesday night and have spent more time talking over the past few days then they had over the past year.

In taking responsibility Gyngell has taken the heat off Packer but the reality is that either could have avoided the confrontation. Packer knew Gyngell was outside his Bondi apartment and Gyngell knew Packer was on his way.

But as they say - the first rule of the fight club is don't talk about fight club - so beyond the public statements neither of the two men are going to engage in a war of words.

While Gyngell may lose the public relations war the professional fallout, so far, is minimal. Nine Entertainment's board discussed the issue this week and there was unanimous support for the chief executive.

The chairman David Haslingden reaffirmed the board's endorsement for Gyngell yesterday saying that nothing has changed that affects its support.

''He is a first rate chief executive. This was a very unfortunate event but it doesn't change our support and we don't hold the view that what happened indicates he is not fit to carry out his job.''

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