Kirk Kerkorian

From Academic Kids

Kirk Kerkorian (b. June 6, 1917) is a Nevada billionaire and president/CEO of Tracinda Corporation, his private holding company based in Beverly Hills, California. Kerkorian is known as one of the important figures in shaping the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, and the "father of the mega-resort".

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Early life

Kerkor "Kirk" Kerkorian was born in 1917 in Fresno, California, to Armenian immigrant parents. The young Kerkorian, under the tutelage of his older brother, became a fairly skilled amateur boxer, but in 1939 shifted his focus to learn how to fly airplanes. During World War II, Kerkorian flew as a pilot in the British Royal Air Force.

Kerkorian and Las Vegas

Kerkorian made his first visit to Las Vegas in 1944 as a Cessna pilot. After spending much time in Las Vegas during the 1940s and 1950s, Kerkorian quit gambling and founded a startup airline.

In 1962, Kerkorian bought 80 ac (32.3 ha) across The Strip from the Flamingo for $960,000. This purchase led to the building of Caesars Palace, which rented the land from Kerkorian; the rent and eventual sale of the land to Caesars in 1968 made Kerkorian $9 million.

In 1967, he bought 82 ac (33 ha) of land on Paradise Road in Las Vegas for $5 million and built the International Hotel, which at the time was the largest hotel in the world; Kerkorian's International Leisure also bought the Flamingo Hotel (which later sold the Flamingo to the Hilton Hotels Corporation in 1970). The International Hotel is now known today as the Las Vegas Hilton.

In 1973, having purchased MGM, the famous movie studio, Kerkorian and MGM opened the original MGM Grand Hotel, which was the largest hotel in the world at the time it was finished.

On November 21, 1980, the original MGM Grand burned in a fire that was the worst disaster in Las Vegas history. The Las Vegas Fire Department reported 84 deaths in the fire. There were 87 deaths total, including three which occurred later as a result of injuries sustained in the fire. Amazingly, the MGM Grand reopened after only 8 months. Almost three months after the MGM fire, the Las Vegas Hilton caught fire, which killed eight people.

In 1986, Kerkorian sold the MGM Grand hotels in Las Vegas and Reno for $594 million to Bally. Spun off from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM Mirage owns and operates many properties, including the Bellagio, the current MGM Grand resort complex (where the Marina Hotel once stood), The Mirage, Treasure Island, the New York-New York, and the Boardwalk in Las Vegas, as well as the Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Kerkorian and MGM

In 1969, Kerkorian appointed James T. Aubrey, Jr. MGM's president. He downsized the struggling MGM and sold off massive amounts of historical memorabilia, including Dorothy's ruby slippers (from The Wizard of Oz), and several acres of MGM's backlots (which were razed to build houses). Kerkorian sold MGM's distribution system in 1973, and gradually distanced himself from the daily operation of the studio. In 1979, Kerkorian issued a statement claiming that MGM was now primarily a hotel company; however, he also managed to expand the overall film library and production system with the purchase of United Artists in 1981. In 1986 he sold the studios to Ted Turner.

Turner kept ownership of the combined MGM/UA for exactly 74 days. Both studios had huge debts and Turner simply could not afford to keep them under those circumstances; to recoup his investment, he sold all of United Artists and the MGM trademark back to Kerkorian. The studio lot was sold to Lorimar, which was later acquired by Warner Bros.; in 1990, the lot was sold to Columbia Pictures in exchange for the half of Warner's lot they'd rented since the 1970s. Also in 1990, the MGM studio was purchased by Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti, but Parretti defaulted on the loans he'd used to buy the studio and sold the studio back to Kerkorian in 1996.

Family

Kerkorian married professional tennis player Lisa Bonder. He was involved in a breach of privacy suit filed against him by Steve Bing. Kerkorian claimed Bing was the father of Lisa Bonder's daughter.

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