Australian businessman and billionaire James Packer was certainly handed a much easier lot in life than most of us. Some would even say he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. However, despite the fact that he inherited his father's media empire, and the fortune that came with it, Packer hasn't just sat back and wasted away the empire his family built. Instead, he used it to create an empire of its own, which was a big gamble, but one that looks like it will pay off.

Refusing to sit idly while the empire crumbles
James Packer inherited control of his father's media company Consolidated Press Holdings Limited after the death of his father, Kerry, in 2005. However, shortly after gaining control of the company, James decided to sell the company's two crown jewel assets, Channel Nine and the Australian Consolidated Press magazine group. James wanted to sell the media assets in order to fund his growing international gaming and tourism business Crown Resorts.

However, James also viewed the media businesses as being under threat from the Internet, which would lead to a challenging future for the businesses. In fact, the business, which was sold to a private equity company and renamed PBL Media, eventually went bankrupt partially due to acquisition debt, but also as a result of slumping business prospects.

Instead of media, Packer saw a brighter future in gaming and hospitality, which is why he used the funds gained from the sale to build Crown Resorts into one of Australia's largest entertainment and resort groups. The company also has resorts in other parts of the world thanks in part to the company's 33.7% equity stake in Melco Crown Entertainment, which is a joint venture with Melco International to build casino gaming and entertainment resort facilities in Asia.

How much is James Packer worth?
When his father died in 2006, he left James a media empire that was worth an estimated $5.2 billion. Most of that has been dismantled and sold by James as he was worried about the future of his father's empire. In hindsight, the sale of his family's media assets was the right call to make, as the Internet has made it much tougher for traditional media business to find success.

That said, the move was still a gamble that has yet to fully pay off since it has yet to have a positive impact on James Packer's net worth. Part of this is because he has gambled and lost on a couple of casino deals at a time when gambling was weak due to the financial crisis. This really hurt his wealth, which, at its lowest point, was reduced to just $3 billion. However, as gambling has recovered from the financial crisis, so has Packer's net worth, which, according to Forbes, is an estimated $4.7 billion. That's enough to rank him as the 291st richest person in the world, and more important, as the fourth richest Australian.

Looking ahead, Packer's company has bold plans to grow its gaming empire, which should increase his net worth. His Crown Resorts has proposed to build a landmark entertainment and tourism destination in Brisbane and a luxury six-star hotel resort in Sydney, and it has recently acquired vacant land in Las Vegas. Crown will see incremental revenue gains upon successful completion of these projects, which would boost the value of the company -- and therefore, Packer's personal net worth.

Key takeaway
James Packer is one of the lucky ones, as he inherited his father's media empire. While he could have sat back and lived quite well off the empire his family built, Packer instead chose to go a different route since he saw troubling times ahead for the family business. It's a gamble that hasn't always paid off, but one that now appears to be working well as he's building Crown Resorts into one of the top gaming and resort companies not only in Australia, but in the entire world.