Kirk Kerkorian, 98, went from dropout to billionaire

Kirk-Kerkorian.jpgKirk Kerkorian, who used to hold the media title of richest man in Los Angeles, died Monday evening at his home in Beverly Hills. The investor and former movie studio mogul was 98. During a long business career, he bought MGM three times and at one time owned several of the top hotels in Las Vegas. He was born in Fresno and talked earlier year about funding a secret feature film about the Armenian genocide.

Here's a sampling of obituaries. From the LA Times:

Kerkorian took an unlikely path to tremendous wealth. He didn't invent a ubiquitous product, like software entrepreneur Bill Gates, or specialize in one industry, like entertainment czar Sumner Redstone, or patiently nurture the same holdings for decades, like investment master Warren Buffett.

Instead, Kerkorian bought and built and sold and bought again. He bought MGM Studios three times, always to his benefit, if not the studio's.

He accumulated large chunks of Chrysler Corp. when the automaker was considered all but defunct in the early 1980s, selling as it recovered. He did the same with a beleaguered General Motors in 2005, less successfully but still profitably.

Kerkorian instinctively sensed the promise of Las Vegas on his first visits immediately after World War II, when it was an isolated desert town with only one luxury hotel, mobster Bugsy Siegel's Flamingo.

He eventually acquired many of its most famous properties, including the Bellagio, the Mirage and the MGM Grand.

The New York Times:

Born poor, Mr. Kerkorian was a brawling amateur boxer, a daredevil pilot and a high-stakes poker player before figuring out safer ways to amass a multibillion-dollar fortune. He pursued strategies that baffled business rivals and Wall Street analysts and that left him sometimes on the verge of bankruptcy. Other times, his moves brought him windfalls.

He bought and sold MGM three times. He created a commercial airline, sold it and then purchased it again before reselling it for good. And in his 80s he made an unsolicited but successful bid for Mirage Resorts, the giant casino company controlled by Stephen A. Wynn, the uncrowned king of Las Vegas.

Mr. Wynn was not the only mogul to underestimate Mr. Kerkorian. Mr. Kerkorian had earlier outmaneuvered better-known and seemingly more powerful entrepreneurs. Howard Hughes tried to undermine his Las Vegas projects, and Ted Turner mistakenly thought he had bought MGM studios from Mr. Kerkorian for a song.


Mr. Kerkorian skipped most shareholder meetings at the companies he owned, and he said little when he did attend. But he resented being portrayed as a recluse.

“I have 30- or 40-year friendships that I prefer to meeting new people,” he told The Las Vegas Review-Journal in 1999 in one of his rare interviews. “Just because I don’t go to a lot of events and I’m not out in public all the time doesn’t mean I’m antisocial.”

His close friends included Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra, who often joined him at Los Angeles restaurants and Las Vegas gambling tables.

Bloomberg Business news:

Kirk Kerkorian’s will directs his Tracinda Corp. holding company to sell the estate’s 16 percent stake in MGM Resorts International, the casino company he founded.

The stock, valued at about $1.75 billion, should be sold in an orderly way by the executor of Kerkorian’s will, according to a filing Tuesday by Beverly Hills, California-based Tracinda. Anthony Mandekic, a Tracinda executive who is also a director of MGM, will begin those sales once he is seated as the executor of Kerkorian’s will, according to the filing.

“Tracinda continues to believe there is substantial value in the assets of MGM Resorts and that the company is a good long-term investment,” it said.

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