Kerkor "Kirk" Kerkorian (June 6, 1917 – June 15, 2015) was an American businessman, investor, and philanthropist. He was the president and CEO of Tracinda Corporation, his private holding company based in Beverly Hills, California. Kerkorian is known for having been one of the important figures in the shaping of Las Vegas and, with architect Martin Stern, Jr.  described as the "father of the mega-resort". He built the world's largest hotel in Las Vegas three times:  the International Hotel (opened in 1969), the MGM Grand Hotel (1973) and the MGM Grand (1993). He purchased the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie studio in 1969.

Of Armenian American origin, Kerkorian provided over $1 billion for charity in Armenia through his Lincy Foundation.  It was established in 1989 and was particularly focused on helping to rebuild northern Armenia after the 1988 earthquake. In 2000 Time magazine named him the 10th largest donor in the US. Kerkorian was declared an honorary citizen of Armenia by President Robert Kocharyan in September 1998. He was bestowed the title of National Hero of Armenia, the highest state award, by Kocharyan in May 2004. 

Kerkor Kerkorian was born on June 6, 1917 in Fresno, California, to immigrant parents of Armenian origin.  Armenian was his first language and he "didn't learn the English language until we hit the streets." His family moved to Los Angeles following the depression of 1920–21. Dropping out of school in eighth grade, Kerkorian became a fairly skilled amateur boxer under the tutelage of his older brother Nish Kerkorian, fighting under the name "Rifle Right Kerkorian" to win the Pacific amateur welterweight championship. Kirk Kerkorian also had a younger sister, Rose Kerkorian. 

Sensing the onset of World War II, and not wanting to join the infantry, Kerkorian learned to fly at the Happy Bottom Riding Club in the Mojave Desert—adjacent to the United States Army Air Corps's Muroc Field, now Edwards Air Force Base. In exchange for flying lessons from pioneer aviator Pancho Barnes, he agreed to milk and look after her cattle.

On gaining his commercial pilot's certificate in six months, Kerkorian learned that the British Royal Air Force was ferrying Canadian-built de Havilland Mosquitos over the North Atlantic to Scotland. The Mosquito's fuel tank carried enough fuel for 1,400 miles (2,300 km), while the trip directly was 2,200 miles (3,500 km). Rather than take the safer Montreal–Labrador–Greenland–Iceland–Scotland route (although, going further north could mean the wings icing, and the plane crashing); Kerkorian preferred the direct "Iceland Wave" route, which blew the planes at jet-speed to Europe—but it wasn't constant, and could mean ditching. The fee was $1,000 per flight. While accounts claim the risk was that one in four planes failed to make it,  the actual rate was closer to one in forty. In May 1944, Kerkorian and his Wing Commander John de Lacy Wooldridge rode the wave and broke the old crossing record. Wooldridge got to Scotland in six hours, 46 minutes; Kerkorian, in seven hours, nine minutes. In two and a half years with RAF Ferry Command, Kerkorian delivered 33 planes, logged thousands of hours, traveled to four continents and flew his first four-engine plane.

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. After spending much time in Las Vegas during the 1940s, Kerkorian quit gambling and in 1947 paid $60,000 for Trans International Airlines, which was a small air-charter service that flew gamblers from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. He then bid on some war surplus bombers, using money on loan from the Seagram family. Gasoline, and especially airplane fuel, was in short supply at the time, so he sold the fuel from the planes' tanks, paid off his loan, and still had the airplanes. He operated the airline until 1968 when he sold it for $104 million to the Transamerica Corporation.

In 1962, Kerkorian bought 80 acres (32 ha) in Las Vegas, across the Las Vegas 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 acres (33 ha) of land on Paradise Road in Las Vegas for $5 million and, with architect Martin Stern, Jr.  built the International Hotel, which at the time was the largest hotel in the world; The first two performers to appear at the hotel's enormous Showroom Internationale were Barbra Streisand and Elvis Presley. Presley brought in some 4,200 customers (and potential gamblers), every day, for 30 days straight, breaking in the process all attendance records in the county's history. Kerkorian's International Leisure also bought the Flamingo Hotel; eventually both hotels were sold to the Hilton Hotels Corporation and were renamed the Las Vegas Hilton and the Flamingo Hilton, respectively.

After he purchased the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie studio in 1969, Kerkorian (with architect Martin Stern Jr.) opened the original MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, larger than the Empire State Building and 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 one of the worst disasters in Las Vegas history. The Clark County 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. After only 8 months the MGM Grand reopened. Almost three months after the MGM fire, the Las Vegas Hilton caught fire, killing eight people.

In 1986, Kerkorian sold the MGM Grand hotels in Las Vegas and Reno for $594 million to Bally Manufacturing. The Las Vegas property was subsequently renamed Bally's. Spun off from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM Resorts International owns and operates several properties, including the Bellagio, the current MGM Grand, The Mirage, the New York-New York, Circus Circus, Mandalay Bay, The Luxor, Excalibur, Monte Carlo and the newly completed CityCenter complex in Las Vegas.

MGM sold its Treasure Island Hotel and Casino property to billionaire and former New Frontier owner Phil Ruffin for $750 million.

In 1969, Kerkorian appointed James Thomas Aubrey, Jr. as president of MGM. Aubrey downsized the struggling MGM and sold off massive amounts of historical memorabilia, including Dorothy's ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, the majority of the studio's backlots in Culver City and overseas operations such as the British MGM studio at Borehamwood. Kerkorian sold MGM's distribution system in 1973, and gradually distanced himself from the daily operation of the studio. He also owned minority interest in Columbia Pictures but his holdings were thwarted by the Justice Department who filed an antitrust suit due to his owning stock in two studios.  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 from Transamerica in 1981, becoming MGM/UA Entertainment Company. In 1986, he sold MGM to Ted Turner. After the purchase was made, Turner sold the United Artists subsidiary back to Kerkorian.

Turner kept ownership of MGM from March 25 to August 26, 1986. He racked up huge debts and Turner simply could not afford to keep the studio under those circumstances. To recoup his investment, Turner sold the production/distribution assets and trademarks of MGM to United Artists, while retaining the pre-May 1986 MGM, Associated Artists Productions (the pre-1950 Warner Bros. library and Fleischer Studios/Famous Studios Popeye cartoons) and RKO Radio Pictures libraries as well as Gilligan's Island and its animated spin-offs.  The studio lot was sold to Lorimar-Telepictures, which was later acquired by Warner Bros.; in 1990, the lot was sold to Sony Corporation's Columbia Pictures Entertainment in exchange for the half of Warner's lot that it had rented since the 1970s. Also in 1990, the MGM studio was purchased by Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti, who then merged the former Cannon with the MGM purchase to create the short-lived MGM-Pathé Communications. Parretti defaulted on the loans he'd used to buy the studio, leaving the studio in the hands of the French bank, Credit Lyonnais. Credit Lyonnais invested significant sums to revive the moribund studio and eventually sold it back to Kerkorian in 1996. Kerkorian soon expanded the company, purchasing Orion Pictures, The Samuel Goldwyn Company and Motion Picture Corporation of America from John Kluge's Metromedia in 1997, and bought a majority to the pre-1996 PolyGram Filmed Entertainment library from its parent Philips, which was in process to sell PolyGram to Seagram.

In 2005, Kerkorian sold MGM once more to a consortium led by Sony. He retained a 55% stake in MGM Mirage. 

On November 22, 2006, Kerkorian's Tracinda investment corporation offered to buy 15 million shares of MGM Mirage to increase his stake in the gambling giant to 61.7% from 56.3%, if approved.

In May 2009, following the completion of a $1 billion stock offering by MGM Mirage, Kerkorian and Tracinda lost their majority ownership of the gaming company, dropping from 53.8 percent to 39 percent and even after pledging to purchase 10 percent of the new stock offering they now remain minority owners.

Kerkorian had an on again/off again relationship with the American auto industry. His involvement began in 1995, when with the assistance of retired Chrysler chairman and CEO Lee Iacocca, Kerkorian staged a takeover attempt of the Chrysler Corporation. Chrysler's management treated the takeover as hostile, and after a lengthy battle, Kerkorian canceled his plans and sold his Chrysler stake in 1996. As part of the settlement, Iacocca was placed under a gag order forbidding him from discussing Chrysler in public or print for five years. Two years later, Chrysler management agreed to be acquired by German automaker Daimler-Benz. 

Kerkorian once owned 9.9 percent of General Motors (GM). According to press accounts from June 30, 2006, Kerkorian suggested that Renault acquired a 20 percent stake in GM to rescue GM from itself. A letter from Tracinda to Rick Wagoner was released to the public,[29] to pressure GM's executive hierarchy,[30] but talks failed. On November 22, 2006 Kerkorian sold 14 million shares of his GM stake (it is speculated that this action was due to GM's rejection of Renault and Nissan's bids for stakes in the company as both of these bids were strongly supported by Kerkorian); the sale resulted in GM's share price falling 4.1% from its November 20 price, although it remained above $30/share.[32] The sale lowered Kerkorian's holding to around 7% of GM. On November 30, 2006 Tracinda said it had agreed to sell another 14 million shares of GM, cutting Kerkorian's stake to half of what it had been earlier that year.[33] By the end of November 2006, he had sold substantially all of his remaining GM shares.  After Kerkorian sold, GM lost more than 90% of its value, falling as low as $1/share by May 2009,[35] and filed bankruptcy on June 1, 2009.

On April 5, 2007, Kirk Kerkorian made a $4.58 billion bid for the Chrysler Group, the U.S. arm of Daimler-Chrysler. After Daimler-Chrysler announced they were interested in selling the Chrysler division on February 14, large investors such as Cerberus Capital Management, The Blackstone Group and Magna International each announced intentions to bid on the company. Kerkorian's bid, while not expected, was not surprising given his long involvement in the U.S. automobile industry. During the bidding process, he sought the aid of his close associate Jerome York who was a former CFO at both Chrysler and IBM. On May 14, 2007 80% of the Chrysler arm of Daimler-Chrysler was sold to Cerberus for $7.4 billion.

Kerkorian began buying Ford Motor Company stock in April 2008, and spent about $1 billion to accumulate a 6% stake in the automaker. By October 2008, the investment had lost two thirds of its value, and he began selling. Tracinda explained, "In light of current economic and market conditions, it sees unique value in the gaming and hospitality and oil and gas industries and has, therefore, decided to reallocate its resources and to focus on those industries."

On October 21, Tracinda sold the 7.3 million Ford shares at an average price of $2.43, and said it planned to cut further its existing 6.1 percent stake in Ford, for a potential total loss of more than half a billion dollars.  Kerkorian sold his remaining stake in Ford on December 29, 2008.

Kerkorian's net worth in 2008 was $16.0 billion according to Forbes magazine, making him the 41st richest person in the world and the richest person in California at that time. By 2011, Kerkorian was among those hardest hit by stock market recession as his net worth tumbled to $3.2 billion. In 2013 he was listed as the 412th richest person with a net worth of $3.9 billion.

Kerkorian was an "intensely private person". He almost never gave interviews and seldom appeared in public. "Kerkorian rarely attends board meetings and never gives speeches. He is shy, but a tough negotiator. Those who know him describe him not as Hughesian hermit, but a gentle, gracious, normal guy.

Kerkorian was an avid tennis player, played in tournaments, associated with other players like Lornie Kuhle, and routinely played with Alex Yemenidjian, a former MGM executive now co-owner of the Tropicana Las Vegas resort. He had a penchant for expensive clothes (especially custom-made outfits by Italian designer Brioni), but drove relatively low cost vehicles, such as a Pontiac Firebird, Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Ford Taurus.

Kerkorian died in Beverly Hills, California on June 15, 2015, nine days after his 98th birthday.

Kerkorian was married three times, first to Hilda Schmidt from 1942 to 1952. His next, to Jean Maree Hardy, lasting from 1954 to 1984. The two had met at the Thunderbird resort in Las Vegas. Ms. Hardy, a dancer from England, traveled the world instructing dance troupes. They met and fell in love while she was sent to check opportunities to choreograph a performance in Las Vegas. The marriage produced Kerkorian's two daughters, Tracy and Linda, whose names serve as a portmanteau for Kerkorian's personal holding company, Tracinda Corporation, likewise, his charitable organisation, the Lincy Foundation.  Although divorced, they remained close friends and confidants.

Kerkorian's short-lived third marriage (1999) was to professional tennis player Lisa Bonder, 48 years his junior, which lasted only one month. The two had signed a prenuptial agreement before marrying. Kerkorian subsequently was involved in a breach of privacy suit filed against him by Steve Bing. Kerkorian claimed Bing was the father of Bonder's daughter, which was later established by DNA paternity testing. On August 10, 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported that Kerkorian's attorneys were being sued by Bonder because of their connection to former high-profile private investigator Anthony Pellicano, who in 2008 began serving a fifteen-year prison sentence for running a wiretapping scheme. Bonder's attorney alleged that Kerkorian's lawyers hired Pellicano to wiretap telephone calls illegally between him and Kerkorian's ex-wife in order to gain a tactical advantage in the divorce proceedings. 

Kerkorian was very active in philanthropy founding his charitable foundation The Lincy Foundation, named after the his daughters, Linda and Tracy, joining parts of their name ("Lin" from Linda and "cy" from Tracy). Even though his charitable foundation has reportedly donated more than $1 billion, Kerkorian has never allowed anything to be named in his honor. Through his Lincy Foundation charity, Kerkorian covered half of the cost of an 80-kilometer highway connecting Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh. Kerkorian visited Armenia for the first time in 1998. Over the next decade Lincy financed more than $200 million worth of infrastructure projects in his ancestral homeland. In 2005 Kerkorian contributed another $60 million to the reconstruction of schools and streets in Armenia.  Lincy’s funds were also used for the renovation of many museums, theaters and concert halls in Armenia.

The Lincy Foundation was dissolved in 2011, after 22 years of charitable activities  by announcing on February 14, 2011, that it was ceasing operations after dispensing its last $200 million to University of California, Los Angeles. Half the amount was earmarked for medical research, scholarships and other projects, while the other half was earmarked to create the "Dream Fund" for charitable causes around the country.




Kirk Kerkorian, the media-shy investor who became one of the richest Americans by betting his money on ventures like casinos and film studios, died Monday night at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 98.

Richard E. Sobelle, general counsel of Mr. Kerkorian’s company, the Tracinda Corporation, confirmed the death.

Born poor, Mr. Kerkorian was a brawling amateur boxer, a daredevil pilot and a high-stakes poker player before figuring out safer ways to amass a multibillion-dollar fortune. He pursued strategies that baffled business rivals and Wall Street analysts and that left him sometimes on the verge of bankruptcy. Other times, his moves brought him windfalls.

He bought and sold MGM three times. He created a commercial airline, sold it and then purchased it again before reselling it for good. And in his 80s he made an unsolicited and successful bid for Mirage Resorts, the giant casino company controlled by Stephen A. Wynn, the uncrowned king of Las Vegas.

Mr. Wynn was not the only mogul to underestimate Mr. Kerkorian, who had earlier outmaneuvered better-known and seemingly more powerful entrepreneurs. Howard Hughes tried to undermine his Las Vegas projects, and Ted Turner mistakenly thought he had bought MGM’s studios from Mr. Kerkorian for a song. But Mr. Kerkorian never publicly reveled in his successes and always avoided the limelight.

“What good does it do being rich?” the journalist Dial Torgerson quoted him as saying in the biography “Kerkorian: An American Success Story” (1974). “I can’t do what I want to do. I don’t like to get dressed up and go to see bankers. I hate that kind of thing.”

Mr. Kerkorian skipped most shareholders’ meetings at the companies he owned, and he said little when he did attend. But he resented being portrayed as a recluse.

“I have 30- or 40-year friendships that I prefer to meeting new people,” he told The Las Vegas Review-Journal in 1999 in a rare interview. “Just because I don’t go to a lot of events and I’m not out in public all the time doesn’t mean I’m antisocial.”

His close friends included Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra, who often joined him at Los Angeles restaurants and Las Vegas gambling tables.

He was a polarizing figure. Some said he was an unscrupulous manipulator who disregarded the rights of minority shareholders. On occasion he was sued and forced to settle such accusations out of court.

But his defenders insisted that any investors who stuck by him were bound to make big returns.

“Kirk has always made money for people who buy in with him,” Lee Isgur, an analyst with Paine Webber, told The New York Times in 1985.

Cockpit to Casino Pit

Kerkor Kerkorian — he Americanized his name to Kirk as a boy — was born in Fresno, Calif., on June 6, 1917, one of four children of Armenian immigrants. His mother, Lily, was a homemaker; his father, Ahron, was a fruit merchant whose get-rich-quick schemes often left his family struggling to stay afloat.

“We moved at least 20 times when I was a kid,” Mr. Kerkorian told Fortune magazine in 1969. “We often could not pay our rent and would get booted out.”

Young Kirk got no further than the eighth grade, leaving school to take odd jobs. He became a promising lightweight boxer, winning 29 of 33 amateur bouts, but quit the ring in 1939 to take flying lessons. He soon became a private pilot and later an instructor.

In World War II, Mr. Kerkorian ferried bomber planes across the Atlantic and as far as India for the British Royal Air Force. After the war he bought surplus military transport planes, refurbished them and sold them around the world, using the profits to buy a small air charter operation, based in Los Angeles, in 1947.

Mr. Kerkorian often flew Hollywood entertainers to Las Vegas, which was becoming a gambling capital, and joined them at the blackjack and dice tables, where he became renowned as a high roller. It was in Las Vegas where he met Jean Maree Hardy, a dancer and choreographer. They married in 1954 and had two daughters. That marriage ended in divorce after almost 30 years. (His first marriage, to Hilda Schmidt, had also ended in divorce, in 1951.)

His daughters, Tracy Kerkorian and Linda Kemper, as well as three grandchildren survive him, a family spokesman said.

Mr. Kerkorian bought property in Las Vegas, just off the Strip, in 1962. That year he merged his charter company, Trans International Airlines, with the Studebaker Corporation, retaining operating control.

Using Studebaker revenue, he expanded the airline’s fleet and destinations. He then repurchased the airline in 1964 and left Studebaker. Over the next three years he sold the airline in two separate transactions, making more than $100 million in overall profits and funneling the proceeds into the three business arenas — airlines, gambling resorts and film studios — that would sustain him as an investor for the rest of his life. By the end of 1969, Mr. Kerkorian had beaten out the Bronfman family, the Canadian liquor magnates, for control of MGM and amassed almost 40 percent of its shares. Meanwhile, he began to develop his Las Vegas acreage, breaking ground in 1968 for what he promised would be the largest hotel and casino in the world.

A Brush With Disaster

The project infuriated Hughes, the reclusive airline and movie magnate, who had recently moved to Las Vegas intending to dominate the casino and resort business. Hughes announced a huge expansion of his own Sands Hotel, aimed at convincing creditors that Mr. Kerkorian’s project, the International Hotel, would not be viable in what looked like an overbuilt market. In the end, Mr. Kerkorian found other creditors and completed his hotel on schedule in 1969.

Soon Mr. Kerkorian was facing bigger threats. The 1969-70 recession caught him badly overextended. The Securities and Exchange Commission prevented his holding company, the International Leisure Corporation, from making a secondary offering of stock, which would have helped him repay his loans, because the Flamingo Hotel, an International Leisure property, had once been owned by racketeers. Mr. Kerkorian was sinking fast. His International Leisure stock was worth $180 million at the beginning of 1970, but a year later he was forced to sell half his holdings in the company for $16.5 million.

“Sometimes you lose, but that’s the nature of the game,” he said in a Time magazine article in 1970. “There’s always another game and another chance to win.”

He found one when he sought help in shoring up his finances from MGM, in which he had accumulated a controlling share. At his prodding, the MGM board announced that it would build the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, surpassing the International Hotel as the world’s largest gambling and resort hotel.

The original MGM Grand opened in 1973 with more than 2,000 rooms. A year later, Mr. Kerkorian increased his holdings in MGM to just over 50 percent.

With a strong flow of revenue from his Las Vegas operations, Mr. Kerkorian sought to expand his Hollywood investments. In 1978 he bought 25.5 percent of Columbia Pictures, which he later sold. In 1981, he lost a bid to buy 20th Century Fox but succeeded in acquiring United Artists. He then split MGM into two publicly owned entities: MGM/UA Entertainment, which included film and television production and a large library of films, and MGM Grand Hotels, which owned and managed hotels, casinos and luxury cruise ships.

Shrewd Gambles

By 1986, Mr. Kerkorian had agreed to sell MGM/UA, which was struggling, to Mr. Turner, the cable television magnate, for $1.5 billion. Hollywood rivals and Wall Street analysts considered it a good deal for Mr. Kerkorian. It became a terrific one a year later, when Mr. Turner, crushed by debt, sold all but MGM’s film library back to Mr. Kerkorian for only $300 million. In effect, Mr. Kerkorian had sold the MGM library for $1.2 billion.

Mr. Kerkorian did not hold on to MGM/UA for long. In 1990 he sold it to the Italian financier Giancarlo Parretti and his holding company, Pathe Communications, for $1.3 billion. A year later Mr. Parretti was ousted by his main creditor, the French bank Crédit Lyonnais, which then sued Mr. Kerkorian, accusing him of committing fraud by knowingly selling worthless assets. The case was settled out of court in 1995 when Mr. Kerkorian agreed to pay an undisclosed amount.

By then Mr. Kerkorian was focused on the biggest gamble of his career: an effort to take over the Chrysler Corporation. In 1995, with the support of its former chairman, Lee A. Iacocca, he proposed to buy Chrysler for $22.8 billion and take it private. Chrysler’s board rejected the offer.

But he and the board struck a deal in 1996 when he agreed to limit his Chrysler holdings to no more than 13.8 percent and the company agreed to rid itself of its nonautomotive businesses. In 1998, Daimler-Benz, the maker of Mercedes-Benz automobiles, acquired Chrysler in a $36 billion merger. The deal was a windfall for Mr. Kerkorian, raising the value of his Chrysler holdings to nearly $5 billion, more than triple the original investment he made in 1990.

Even as he battled Chrysler, Mr. Kerkorian was moving back into the film business. In 1996, after settling his legal disputes with Crédit Lyonnais, he bought back MGM/UA for $1.3 billion. It was Mr. Kerkorian’s third takeover of MGM, and he seemed determined to restore the company’s vitality. But he sold it in 2004 to a consortium led by Sony.

He held on to his interest in Las Vegas gambling resorts, however. After the MGM Grand was badly damaged in a fire in 1980, leaving more than 80 people dead, he rebuilt it and, in 1986, sold it to the Bally Manufacturing Corporation, which renamed it the Bally’s Grand.

Then, in 1993, he unveiled a new MGM Grand, built at a cost of more than $1 billion. Again claiming to be the largest hotel and casino in the world, it had 5,005 rooms, 170,000 square feet of casinos, a 15,000-seat arena, a 33-acre theme park and a giant gold lion serving as its entrance.

“He doesn’t do it for the money,” Mr. Iacocca, then an MGM Grand board member, said about Mr. Kerkorian in The Los Angeles Times in 1993. “He does it because he gets bug-eyed like a little kid when he goes through the place.”

In 1999, Mr. Kerkorian married Lisa Bonder, a former tennis pro. The marriage lasted only one month, and in 2002 she asked a Los Angeles Superior Court for the largest child-support award in California history, $320,000 a month. A court later awarded her a much smaller amount after it emerged that the child was not Mr. Kerkorian’s.

‘Just a Bump in the Road’

By the time the marriage ended, Mr. Kerkorian was worth about $7 billion, according to Forbes magazine. But his appetite for acquisitions was as great as ever.

In 2000, his MGM Grand made an unsolicited offer to acquire Mirage Resorts, the company created by Mr. Wynn to help turn Las Vegas into a major family destination. Within two weeks, Mirage Resorts agreed to a $4.4 billion cash deal. The purchase left Mr. Kerkorian in control of five of the most glittering casino resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, as well as casinos in Australia and elsewhere in the United States.

As he neared 88 in 2005, Mr. Kerkorian made yet another splash on Wall Street by buying a 9.9 percent stake in General Motors. Though financially troubled, G.M. remained the world’s largest automaker, and Mr. Kerkorian was betting that he could force it to pursue a more successful strategy. But his gamble failed when G.M.’s management refused to accept his proposal to sell off money-losing car brands and form an alliance with the rival automakers Nissan and Renault. Mr. Kerkorian sold his G.M. investment in 2006.

He was not entirely finished with the automobile business. In 2008 he acquired a 6.5 percent stake in the Ford Motor Company, only to sell it within a few months after Ford’s stock plummeted. By that time his casino business had sustained heavy losses as well. But Mr. Kerkorian remained undeterred.

“Kirk has seen this before,” his friend Alex Yemenidjian, a former MGM chief executive, told The Times in 2009. “To him, this is just a bump on the road.”

Through the highs and lows, Mr. Kerkorian, whose net worth was estimated by Forbes at $4.2 billion, gave away more than $1 billion through a foundation he named for his daughters, including $200 million to U.C.L.A. in 2011. Patricia Glaser, a lawyer for Mr. Kerkorian, said he “gave almost his entire estate to charity.”

Mr. Kerkorian offered his own assessment of the fires that motivated him. “When you’re a self-made man, you start very early in life,” he told The Las Vegas Review-Journal in 1999. “In my case it was at 9 years old when I started bringing income into the family. You get a drive that’s a little different, maybe a little stronger, than somebody who inherited.”