Kirk Kerkorian, the eighth-grade dropout who bootstrapped his way to billionaire by buying and selling stakes in airlines, auto companies, Nevada casinos and Hollywood studios, has died. He was 98.
He died on June 15 in Los Angeles, Clark Dumont, a spokesman for MGM Resorts International, said in a telephone interview. No cause was given.
Like a Monopoly player, Kerkorian found it hard to quit. As an octogenarian, he controlled more than half of the Las Vegas strip’s hotel rooms after his casino company, MGM Grand Inc., acquired rival Steve Wynn’s Mirage Resorts Inc. for $6.4 billion in 2000 and the Mandalay Resort Group for $4.8 billion four years later. He was the controlling shareholder of the company, now known as MGM Resorts International, until May 2009, when he reduced his stake in the business to 37 percent from 54 percent.
He bought almost 10 percent of General Motors Corp.’s depressed stock in 2005, when he was 88. Impatient with GM management at 89, Kerkorian pressed for changes and was rebuffed. He sold his stake in late 2006.
“I didn’t go to school, but I went into buying and selling businesses at an early age,” Kerkorian said in a rare interview in 2011. “I got into a lot of different businesses. I had to have a lot of luck.”
His deals generated a net worth of $3.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
His fortune took a hit during the financial crisis of 2008. Among his losses: about $600 million from unwinding a stake in Ford Motor Co. that had topped 140 million shares, or about 6 percent of the company. Construction of the $8.5 billion CityCenter development in Las Vegas during the global recession drove down MGM’s stock price.
For decades, Kerkorian ranked as a Hollywood mogul through his control of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. Over a 30-year span, he purchased stakes in several major studios.
His competitiveness extended to tennis, playing in the men’s national championships in the over-85 bracket as late as 2004. His 30-acre estate in Beverly Hills, California, had two tennis courts.