- Richest Business › Richest Billionaires
- Net Worth:
- $4.2 Billion
- Date of Birth:
- Jun 6, 1917 - Jun 15, 2015 (98 years old)
- Place of Birth:
- Businessperson, Investor, Financier
- United States of America
What was Kirk Kerkorian's Net Worth?
Kirk Kerkorian was an American businessman, investor, and philanthropist who had a net worth of $4.2 billion at the time of his death in 2015. Rising from Great Depression poverty to a multi-billionaire titan of industry, Kirk Kerkorian was a truly unique figure. He was best known for helping to develop modern-day Las Vegas via the construction of the International Hotel, the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, and the MGM Grand. He was also president and CEO of the private holding company Tracinda Corporation, which he founded in 1976. As a philanthropist, Kerkorian donated over $1 billion to causes in his ancestral Armenia through his Lincy Foundation.
Known by his nickname "the smiling cobra", Kerkorian is regarded as one of the key figures in shaping Las Vegas as we know it today. Not having interest in formal education, he dropped out of school in the 8th grade to become a boxer. During World War II, Kirk was a daredevil pilot who flew for the Royal Air Force. He delivered supplies over the Atlantic on routes that would crash one out of every four planes. After the war, having saved most of his wages, Kerkorian spent $5,000 on a Cessna. He worked as a general aviation pilot, and made his first visit to Las Vegas in 1944, where he became a high roller on the craps tables. In 1962, Kerkorian bought 80 acres in Las Vegas, across the Las Vegas Strip from the Flamingo, for $960,000.
In 1969, he bought a controlling stake in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio, and he went on to open the original MGM Grand Hotel and Casino (now Bally's Las Vegas) in 1973. The MGM Grand Reno, followed in 1978. Over the years, MGM grew to become the second largest gaming company in the world by revenue. Kerkorian stepped down as its chairman in 2011 and became the first director emeritus. Kirk Kerkorian died on June 16, 2015 at the age of 98. Most of his $4 billion estate was left to charity.
Kerko "Kirk" Kerkorian was born on June 6, 1917 in Fresno, California to Armenian parents who had fled the Armenian genocide. Following the depression of 1920-1921, the family moved to Los Angeles. There, Kerkorian dropped out of school in the eighth grade and became an amateur boxer under the mentorship of his older brother Nish. He also had an older sister named Rose.
Just prior to the advent of World War II, Kerkorian learned to fly at the Happy Bottom Riding Club in the Mojave Desert. After training under pioneer aviator Pancho Barnes for about six months, he earned his commercial pilot's certificate. Kerkorian went on to join the British Royal Air Force's Ferry Command, with which he delivered 33 planes and logged thousands of hours over two-and-a-half years.
After the war, Kerkorian purchased a Cessna and worked as a general aviation pilot. He spent much of his time visiting Las Vegas, where he gambled. In 1947, Kerkorian quit gambling and paid $60,000 for Trans International Airlines. He operated the airline until 1968, when he sold it to the Transamerica Corporation.
Development of Las Vegas
Kerkorian was integral in the development of Las Vegas as we know it today. In 1962, he bought 80 acres of land there for $960,000; this purchase was followed by the construction of Caesars Palace, which had rented Kerkorian's land. Later, in 1967, he bought 82 acres of land on Las Vegas's Paradise Road, and with the help of architect Martin Stern Jr. built the International Hotel. At the time the largest hotel in the world, it launched the iconic Showroom Internationale, which had as its first two performers Barbra Streisand and Elvis Presley. The latter performer was a massive boon to the hotel, breaking attendance records by bringing in around 4,200 customers every day for 30 consecutive days.
After buying MGM Studios in 1969, Kerkorian reunited with architect Martin Stern Jr. to build the original MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, which eclipsed the International as the largest hotel in the world at the time of its opening in 1973. The building burned in a massive fire in 1980, but was reopened the following year. In 1986, Kerkorian sold the MGM Grand to Bally Manufacturing for $594 million. A few years after that, he bought the Marina Hotel and Casino, which became the new MGM Grand in 1993.
Kerkorian made one of his biggest acquisitions when he bought MGM Studios in 1969. He appointed as president James Thomas Aubrey Jr., who downsized the floundering studio by selling off huge amounts of its memorabilia, backlots, and overseas operations. In 1981, Kerkorian purchased United Artists and managed to expand MGM's overall film library and production system. He sold MGM to Ted Turner in 1986; a decade later, it was sold back to him by the French bank Crédit Lyonnais, whose hands it had ended up in after former owner Giancarlo Parretti defaulted on his loans. Kerkorian went on to significantly expand MGM by purchasing Orion Pictures, the Samuel Goldwyn Company, and Motion Picture Corporation of America. In 2005, he sold MGM to a Sony-led consortium.
Auto Industry Investments
Kerkorian was often involved in the US auto industry. In 1995, he and retired Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca attempted a failed hostile takeover of the Chrysler Corporation. Kerkorian also once owned a 9.9% stake in General Motors, and in 2008 began buying Ford Motor Company stock.
The Lincy Foundation
In 1989, Kerkorian founded the Lincy Foundation, through which he made a reported $1 billion in donations to causes in his ancestral land of Armenia. He donated to major infrastructure projects in the country, including to the reconstruction of streets and schools in the wake of the 1988 earthquake. Kerkorian also provided funding for the 2016 historical war film "The Promise," about the Armenian genocide. The Lincy Foundation was dissolved in 2011.
Personal Life and Death
Kerkorian was married a total of four times. He wed his first wife, Hilda Schmidt, in 1942; they divorced a decade later. Kerkorian subsequently married English dancer Jean Maree Hardy in 1954, with their divorce coming after three decades together. That marriage produced Kerkorian's two daughters Tracy and Linda, whose names form the portmanteaus of Kerkorian's Tracinda Corporation and Lincy Foundation. His third wife was professional tennis player Lisa Bonder, who was 48 years his junior; they were married for just one month in 1999. Kerkorian's fourth and final marriage, to Una Davis, lasted 57 days in 2014. She was nearly 50 years his junior.
In June of 2015, Nine days after turning 98, Kerkorian passed away in Beverly Hills, California.
Several years after his death, a former fling sued Kirk's estate seeking $20 million she believed she was owed. In February 2018 a judge awarded the woman, Vanessa Sandin, $7.5 million. She and Kirk reportedly dated for less than a year.