Kirk Kerkorian, the founder of MGM resorts and a multi-billionaire who turned 98 on the 6th of June 2015, passed away after a brief illness. Kerkorian never inherited his wealth as he was born to Armenian immigrants who worked hard to make a living by using his uncanny sense of how to find great deals and then leverage them in such a way that he made the huge profits.
Kerkorian was known to be a gambler and a risk taker and personally credits these traits for his success in business. He was one of the key members who revolutionized the Las Vegas Strip and was responsible for constructing the world’s biggest hotel in Las Vegas three times. The first hotel was in 1969 and is now known as the Westgate Las Vegas, the second hotel was in 1973 and was the first MGM Grand now known as Bally’s and the third one was in 1993 and is now named the MGM Grand.
Kerkorian made most of his fortune in the 50s and 60s and would later go on to found MGM Resorts in the 90s, being the biggest shareholder of the company. He invested his money in a number of industries like the automotive, airline and film industries and always preferred to make a fast deal and take out his profits instead of investing into the company and taking on the responsibility of scaling the company.
MGM chief executive Jim Murren paid tribute to Kerkorian and his legacy by saying “MGM Resorts and our family of 62,000 employees are honoring the memory of a great man, a great business leader, a great community leader, an innovator, and one of our country’s greatest generation”. Kerkorian played a key role in transforming the image of Las Vegas from an adult entertainment destination to one which is family friendly.
Even though he made billions and was heavily involved with the development of Las Vegas, Kerkorian liked to stay out of the public domain and preferred keeping a low profile. He stayed away from controversy and preferred to focus his attention on business. He was married three times and it was his third marriage to tennis player Lisa Bonder that caused a lot of controversy as she claimed he was the father of her child, something that Kerkorian denied and later proved via DNA testing that he wasn’t.
Forbes conducted a survey during 2008 and estimated Kerkorian’s wealth to be around $16 billion but Kerkorian would lose a significant amount of money with the market collapse. A Forbes report in May 2015 estimated Kerkorian’s fortune to be around $4.2 billion. He is survived by his two daughters Tracy and Linda.
Kerkorian named his company and his foundation by combining the names of his daughters. His company was named the Tracinda Corporation and his charity is known as the Lincy Foundation and has been responsible for donation over $1 billion to Armenian charities. Kerkorian won the National Hero of America award in 2004.