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Packer v Gyngell: photographer speaks

One of the photographers who snapped images of longtime friends James Packer and David Gyngell trading punches initially thought it was all in jest. Photos/video: Media Mode.

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The Sydney business community runs on money and power as much as it does on cuff links, clubs and breast-pocket kerchiefs. It's small, closely knit and James Packer sits at its centre.

Channel Nine chief and Packer's best friend-come-punching partner David Gyngell doesn't do the lunch circuit, isn't known for his networking but retains a high profile nonetheless by virtue of his position, his media pedigree and his relationship with the now black-eyed P(acker).

The Sydney business community probably didn't get much work done on Tuesday - so fixated were its members on the graphic video and pictures plastered across print and digital news outlets showing the intensity of the physical brawl between two of its own.

Fisticuffs: James Packer.

Fisticuffs: James Packer. Photo: Bohdan Warchomij

So choosing sides was near-impossible. If the public punch-up established a fault line in the business community most were content to appear, at least, to straddle it.

Packer has offended plenty in the business community over the years but none would publicly criticise him.

He is powerful, commands (sometimes grudging) respect and is not afraid to make enemies.

Those in Packer's inner circle were busy passing off the affray with Gyngell as a couple of friendly blokes blowing off steam.

The big end of town - the people who run the largest corporate institutions - are a judgmental lot but would rather not be seen commenting on other businessmen behaving badly as the wild west antics reflect poorly on their lofty public relations image.

Gyngell is a widely liked and admired executive who, even among the bitchy media industry, is well regarded. It is hard to find any meaningful Gyngell links within the upper echelons of business community. Instead he is considered to be close to his family, his business colleagues and surfing friends.

Where Neil Perry's Rockpool is considered to be the canteen of the Sydney set (where Packer and his acolytes can regularly be seen dotted around the room) Gyngell is more likely to be spotted where the surf is running.

There are plenty of people who lay claim to being close friends with James Packer - other than David Gyngell. The two who have best earned the title are iron ore magnate Andrew Forrest and UBS investment bank boss Matthew Grounds.

Forrest enticed Packer into his Generation One project to get indigenous Australians into sustainable training and employment and was also a personal supporter after Packer's failed business endeavour in OneTel. Grounds has been a trusted investment banking adviser for several years.

However, Packer will now be calling in his friends in the media to manage the fall-out from the weekend fracas. Lachlan Murdoch was one of the many people who visited Packer this week - presumably to discuss News Corp's treatment of the photos and video for which it paid $250,000.

But for those outside Packer's inner sanctum the question most consistently asked is what had instigated the brawl. Few in the business community were satisfied with the explanation that tensions had emerged in response to Packer's break-up with his wife Erica.