Who is Kirk Kerkorian?
Kerkor “Kirk” Kerorian was an Armenian-American businessman who made a string of successful investments over his career. He is best known for his role in turning Las Vegas into what it is today by creating some of the earliest large casino resorts.
How Old Was Kirk Kerkorian?
Before his death in June 2015, Kirk Kerkorian reached 98 years of age.
Kirk Kerkorian Bio
Kirk Kerkorian was born on June 6, 1917. His parents moved to the US before his birth, but chose to give him a traditional Armenian name. However, Kirk used the Anglicized version of his name.
Throughout his life, Kirk had three wives. The first was Hilda Schmidt whom he married in 1942 but divorced in 1954. Three years later, he married Jean Maree Harbour-Hardy. That relationship lasted thirty years before they divorced in 1984. He married his final wife, Lisa Bonder in 1999, but they separated the same year.
Kirk Kerkorian Net Worth
Kirk Kerkorian is believed to have had a net worth of around $4 billion before his passing in 2015. This wasn’t considerably lower than at the peak of his wealth, however, a series of bad investments ate into his assets.
According to a report in Forbes, Kirk saw his net worth peak in 2008 at around $16 billion.
Most of Kirk’s wealth came from his investments in the gaming industry. When many think of that sector today, they often think of the huge casinos on the Strip and the professional poker players that frequent them. That’s understandable, many of these pros live flamboyantly with luxury homes in and around the Strip and other celebrity hotspots like Venice Beach, California.
However, they likely don’t give much thought as to how those giant casino resorts came about. Yet, Kirk is one of the biggest reasons these poker pros have somewhere to play today.
Kirk Kerkorian Career
Kirk Kerkorian started his working life by trying to make it as a boxer. Although his career in the ring was short, it was a success, resulting in him winning the Pacific Amateur Welterweight Championship.
However, he decided that a career as a pilot would be more lucrative, so he learned to fly and began working for the Royal Canadian Airforce in the 1940s. His main role was to deliver planes from Canada to Scotland, for which he’d be paid $1,000 for each successful drop off. He managed to earn $33,000 (worth over half a million today) in under three years through this work. He then invested most of that into a plane and started his own airline, flying guests to and from Las Vegas.
While on layovers, Kirk began playing in the city’s casinos. He fell in love with the city and the giant gaming houses so much that it inspired his next career change.
In 1969, Kerkorian bought a controlling stake in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio. In less than 10 years, he’d expanded the business from movie making into owning large hotels and casinos like the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino and the MGM Grand Reno. These resorts would be more than just places to wager on card games though. They offered live entertainment from illusionists like Siegfried Fischbacher and live sports like boxing matches.
By the 1980s, the powerhouse of cinema was now making most of its money from the casino businesses, so Kirk split the business in two but kept a 47% shareholding in both. For the next few decades he began investing in new hotels and selling old ones, constructing bigger and better resorts each time.
Despite having a net worth that peaked at $16 billion, Kirk Kerkorian had a penchant for modest and cheap cars. Some of his favorites were the Ford Taurus and the Pontiac Firebird.
It was this love of cars that prompted him to invest in the motoring industry. In the mid-1990s, he attempted a hostile takeover of Chrysler, which was eventually blocked, so he set his sights on General Motors. By the mid-2000s, Kirk owned almost 10% of the company, but again his attempted takeover was resisted, so he sold up. He then made a third attempt, acquiring $1 billion of Ford shares in April 2008.
However, the financial crisis that began later that year saw him lose over 60% of his investment in less than six months. By 2008, he had cut his losses and ran, taking a hit of at least half a billion dollars.