Sad, overweight and jilted by his then wife Jodi Meares, James Packer was the "perfect recruit" when actor Tom Cruise set off on a carefully targeted crusade in mid-2002, aimed at converting wealthy and influential celebrities to scientology.
The claim is made in a blockbuster new biography of Cruise by British author Andrew Morton, who describes the then 35-year-old Mr Packer as the "raw meat" Scientology needed to gain recognition and credibility.
"Not only was he (Mr Packer) wildly wealthy and emotionally confused, he was a well-known figure in a country that has been hostile to the faith, a 1965 (Australian) Government report accusing scientology of being 'evil'," Morton writes in Tom Cruise: An Unauthorised Biography.
"Dominated by his larger-than-life father (the late Kerry Packer), James Packer cut a sorry figure, overweight and out of shape.
"Not only had his One.Tel communications business collapsed, but his wife of just two years had walked out on him.
"His 'ruin' was obvious to anyone - and it did not take long before he was reading Scientology literature."
Morton says Mr Packer was specifically targeted by Cruise, who by mid-2002 had resolved to dedicate his life to Scientology.
He suggests Cruise offered Mr Packer a role as a samurai extra in the film The Last Samurai solely to convert him.
Mr Packer was quickly seduced, saying later he admired Cruise for his humility, values and decency.
Morton claims actor Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett, were similarly targeted by Cruise because of their stature in African-American society.
Cruz relationship 'calculated'
Even Cruise's love interest with actor Penelope Cruz was calculated to boost scientology in Spanish-speaking countries, he says.
"He (Cruise) was not only an advocate but a teacher, donor, a preacher and a recruiting sergeant, using his celebrity and his image as a clean-cut action hero to gain access to the levers of power while making Scientology seem like a middle-of-the-road institution for regular folk," Morton writes.
Australian customers who wish to read all of this for themselves, may have trouble buying a copy, after US publisher St Martin's Press reportedly instructed its distributors not to sell it outside North America.
It was still available last night on the internet.
Amazon.com had a notice saying the publisher had authorised distribution of the book only to US and Canadian customers.
However, The Australian had no trouble ordering a copy using an Australian credit card and an Australian mailing address.
Book sellers scrambling for copies
Angus & Robertson book manager Jodi Smith said the company received an email yesterday from its US wholesaler, Baker & Taylor - one of the main suppliers of books to the Australian market - stating it could no longer provide the book to Australian customers because of restrictions placed on it by St Martin's.
"We had every intention of ordering the book," Ms Smith said. "But everyone we know has been unable to supply it to us.
"We physically can't get the book from anyone."
Another big US distributor, Ingram International, also emailed its Australian customers overnight, informing them it was no longer able to sell the book outside the US and Canada.
It said customers who had already placed orders would have them fulfilled, but no more orders would be taken.
Kinokuniya's Sydney store manager Steve Jones yesterday said the bookseller had found another distributor who was willing to sell to Australia.
"We have actually sourced another supplier of the book - although it may take a little longer," he said.