"Little prince": Francis Packer, the one-time heir apparent to the family fortune. Photo: Brendan Esposito
He bears one of the most famous surnames in the country, but there are no supermodels, glittering casinos, Hollywood party pals, superyachts or private jets to give his family lineage away.
Indeed, the only tell-tale sign of 52-year-old Francis Packer's privileged upbringing sits on his right hand – a hefty, regal-looking silver ring bearing the Packer family crest depicting a "Moorhead" insignia, a gift from his late father Clyde Packer, the original heir to the Packer empire until his spectacular falling out with his father, Sir Frank Packer, in 1976.
Clyde Packer in his Woollahra office in 1973. Photo: Supplied
Francis Packer fondles the silver ring with great affection as he recounts a "magical" childhood growing up in the bosom of one of the most powerful and enduring dynasties in Australian history.
"As a kid, I thought everyone had a butler named Alfred ... we did, my grandfather did and even Batman had one on TV ... as a little boy there were butlers and people opening doors for me, which I figured was like having magical powers. Only as an adult do you fully appreciate just how unusual that childhood actually was. Having the prime minister ring the house was nothing out of the ordinary, nor was getting a personal birthday message from Miss Marilyn on The Super Flying Fun Show," Mr Packer explains of his life growing up inside the Packer family compound in Bellevue Hill.
"There was a garden path from our house with a gate at the end which led directly into my grandfathers' house, where I would often go and play. The Frank Packer I knew was a loving man who doted on me. My grandmother had already died before I was born but her presence was still strong within the family.
"For a long time I was the heir apparent and that was made very clear to me ... I was the little Packer prince."
But his grandfather's ambitions for the little boy were not to be, his succession to the Packer throne thwarted by the falling out between Clyde and Sir Frank, the former angrily quitting the family business and moving to America after years of butting heads with the old man. By default, the family chalice was handed to Kerry and then James. That has made Francis an unknown quantity to the Australian public, unlike his cousins, who have had their lives, both the highs and lows, documented and scrutinised for decades.
He agrees that even within the Packer family he is probably regarded as something of a black sheep, an openly gay man who his friends describe as a sensitive intellectual, a man of the arts who would rather spend his money in a gallery than a casino, and his hours digging in the garden rather than carving up a boardroom.
"Dad never wanted to talk about my sexuality. It was an aspect of my life he didn't want to know about ... but really, I actually think he was even more upset that I didn't really have much of a passion for the family business," he says.
"I can assure you I don't envy James at all. He has the head for business, casinos are not my thing. My passion is art and photography, it's where I can express myself.
"There is a great pressure that goes along with having the Packer surname in this country, a pressure I was made aware of from a very young age. I was told that people would be watching me, to be wary of people's motives ... I think that's why the family has always been ambivalent about engaging with journalists and the media, we have been burned before," he reveals between sips of coffee outside a sleepy cafe in Austinmer, not far from where his mother, Clyde Packer's first wife Angela, lives.
"That pressure is a lot of the reason why I have spent most of the past four decades out of Australia. Living in California gave me an anonymity James and Gretel have not had."
However, the events of September 11, 2001, and his father's death just six months earlier set the scene for his eventual return to Australia.
"My partner at the time died during the 9/11 attack. He was at a meeting in the Windows on the World restaurant when the plane hit ... that was six months after losing dad and it was a very difficult, dark time in my life," he says.
"We had built a garden in our home in California and it became something of a tribute for my partner after he was killed. It inspired much of my photography, to document the plant kingdom and observe the struggle for survival, and now I'm ready to show my work."
Francis Packer's first exhibition will open at Paddington's Olsen Irwin Gallery on September 6. Gallery director Tim Olsen said the works are "visually arresting" and revealed Francis as a "genuinely accomplished artist".