MGM Grand developer Kirk Kerkorian dies at 98

Billionaire investor changed Las Vegas, bested Ted Turner and Howard Hughes

Kirk Kerkorian and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas
Kirk Kerkorian and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas

Kirk Kerkorian, a billionaire real estate investor and former MGM mogul who built some of the world’s glitziest hotels and and outmaneuvered many titans of his time, died Monday night at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 98.

Kerkorian, who grew up poor in Fresno, Calif., with Armenian immigrant parents, went on to become one of America’s wealthiest real estate players. His net worth stood at $16 billion as recently as 2008, according to Forbes — though that number had since fallen to around $4 billion. Kerkorian’s investments particularly changed the face of Las Vegas, where he built the city’s largest hotel on three separate occasions – most recently the MGM Grand in 1993.

Kerkorian was a brawling amateur boxer, a daredevil pilot and a high-stakes poker player before making his career in real estate. He counted Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant among his close friends, and established a reputation for being media-shy and reclusive.

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Among his higher-profile real estate plays included buying and selling MGM three times and similarly flipping his Trans International Airlines on several occasions. In 2000, he made an unsolicited and successful bid for Steve Wynn’s Mirage Resorts, which he acquired in a $4.4 billion cash deal.

He also counted legendary magnate Howard Hughes among his business rivals, and sold MGM to Ted Turner for $1.5 billion in 1986 before buying back the company – sans its film library – from Turner for only $300 million one year later. [NYT]Rey Mashayekhi