James Packer and David Gyngell: the best and worst of friends

They were the best of friends for 35 years, but, on Sunday afternoon, in broad daylight and on one of the busiest streets in the country, James Packer and David Gyngell were exchanging blows and wrestling on the footpath outside Packer's Bondi Beach house like a couple of schoolboys.

The punches were thrown in anger, and even in photographs it was clear this was much, much more than a couple of mates rumbling.

Having both attended the elite Cranbrook School, Gyngell and Packer were more like brothers than friends, their bond cemented by their respective fathers, Bruce Gyngell, the late television pioneer who was also Kerry Packer's confidant.

During their youth the boys were inseparable on the streets of Sydney's eastern suburbs.

Gyngell was a member of Packer's pack of four at Cranbrook. He told The Sydney Magazine in 2007: "James Packer and I have been close since we were six or seven. It's brotherly, our friendship. We often played cricket with a bowling machine in their backyard in Bellevue Hill and Kerry [Packer] and Dad would come and watch. I was incredibly lucky; I had two fathers. Kerry was big and ugly and intimidating; a character of substance who never left you in any doubt.

David Gyngell, left, with best mate James Packer in 1999. Picture: VIRGINIA STAR

David Gyngell, left, with best mate James Packer in 1999. Picture: VIRGINIA STAR

"The Gyngells have a lovely affection for the Packers but the press has overplayed our relationship.

"I dropped out of school - Cranbrook - early. I wasn't an intellect. At 16, I thought, 'OK, I want to go out and be entrepreneurial.' My parents said, 'You want to grow up - you take the responsibility for growing up.'"

Gyngell was Packer's best man at both his weddings, while Gyngell and his wife Leila McKinnon are godparents to Packer's oldest child, Indigo.

Gyngell joined the Packer family firm, and for years their interfamily relations grew ever deeper as both men entered their 40s and fatherhood.

But it was Packer's decision to end his six-year marriage to Erica, the mother of his three children, six months ago, that is understood to be the cause of their falling out.

PS has been told it was Gyngell who confronted Packer, his friends revealing this morning: "He has known James the longest, he was the only one who could tell him that he didn't like how he was behaving and it didn't go down well."

[Leila McKinnon, David Gyngell and son Ted]

David Gyngell with Leila McKinnon and son Ted. Photo: INF

Since the marriage came to an end, Packer has been living life as a billionaire bachelor, running with the Hollywood set including renowned party boy, filmmaker Brett Ratner, with whom Packer has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their new film production company RatPac.

Jetting around the globe in private jets and partying on the sands of Mykonos was a far cry from the setting of domestic bliss Packer had apparently opted out of with Erica.

Their divorce settlement was handled swiftly, and now Erica has taken possession of a $13 million-plus luxury home in a gated community at swish Californian enclave Bel Air.

Two weeks ago, Packer was spotted collecting his children, his exchange with his ex-wife described as "perfunctory" at best.

This morning, Gyngell was seen leaving Packer's Bondi home, offering a short response to reporters when asked about Sunday's fracas, intimating that their friendship could sustain a few dust-ups.

Gyngell was wearing a suit and looking less dishevelled than he did yesterday. His beard was gone, too.

Gyngell and Packer later released a joint statement on the fight: "We have been friends for 35 years and still are. In that time we have had our fair share of ups and downs. We respect each other and neither of us will be commenting further."

However, others are no so sure, with word that Packer and Gyngell are a long way off from any loving reunion.

Gyngell was later seen arriving at Channel Nine's offices in Willoughby and was described as "looking quite distressed, he certainly wasn't happy".

Gyngell's wife Leila McKinnon is expected to give birth to their second child imminently.

Packer's rumoured new girlfriend, supermodel Miranda Kerr, flew back into Sydney on Friday.

Kerr said in an interview published on Sunday that Packer was a "friend", but close associates have described the pair as being romantically involved for several months.

Sources have confirmed reports of a Channel Nine news truck being parked near Packer's home, with suggestions circulated that Packer had believed he was about to be greeted with a news crew.

However, it was Gyngell who had assured Packer the truck was parked there by coincidence as one of his news staff lived close by and was on-call.

Packer has long been wary of media scrutiny, and while the truck's presence could have been the "trigger point", associates confirmed the fight was really over long simmering tension between the men.

Nine chairman David Haslingden said in an email to Fairfax Media today: "David Gyngell has had and continues to have the full support of the board in his role as CEO of Nine Entertainment Company."