Kirk Kerkorian, the founder of Las Vegas-based casino operator MGM Resorts International, died on Monday evening, the company said in a statement. Other media reported he had been at home in Los Angeles, California. On June 6, Mr Kerkorian had turned 98.
The veteran U.S. businessman owned Beverly Hills-based Tracinda Corp, a private investment firm that holds the largest single stake in MGM Resorts. The latter firm in turn owns many of the most famous casino hotels on the Las Vegas Strip. MGM Resorts additionally controls 51 percent of Macau-based gaming operator MGM China Holdings Ltd.
Anthony Mandekic, chief executive of Tracinda Corp, was quoted by media saying Mr Kerkorian’s death was from age-related causes.
“Mr Kerkorian was a quiet but powerful force behind the transformation of the Las Vegas Strip into one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations,” MGM Resorts said in its statement on Tuesday.
“MGM Resorts and our family of 62,000 employees are honouring the memory of a great man, a great business leader, a great community leader, an innovator, and one of our country’s greatest generation,” Jim Murren, chairman and chief executive of MGM Resorts, said in that statement.
“Mr Kerkorian combined brilliant business insight with steadfast integrity to become one of the most reputable and influential financiers of our time,” Mr Murren added.
The American Gaming Association (AGA) also paid tribute to a businessman it said had developed some of the most high-profile properties on the Las Vegas Strip.
“In an industry that thrives on innovation, Kirk Kerkorian was a pioneer who set a higher standard for gaming and elevated Las Vegas’ stature with each move he made,” said AGA president and chief executive Geoff Freeman.
“Given his outsized influence in shaping the gaming industry, it’s no surprise that Mr Kerkorian was among the first classes of inductees into the Gaming Hall of Fame,” he added.
Kerkor Kerkorian was a son of Armenian immigrants and was born in Fresno, California, in 1917. A school dropout at 16, Mr Kerkorian opened a charter flight business ferrying gamblers from Los Angeles to Las Vegas after World War Two.
He began buying property in Las Vegas in 1962 after selling his charter airline and on three separate occasions developed hotels that were heralded at the time as “the world’s largest”.
He built the 30-storey, 1,568-room, International Hotel in the late 1960s. Mr Kerkorian then opened the first MGM hotel in Las Vegas in the 1970s, with 2,084 rooms. Years later, he would build another, MGM Grand, with more than 5,000 rooms.
In 2000, Mr Kerkorian paid US$6.4 billion for Mirage Resorts from Steve Wynn. Mr Wynn later founded casino operator Wynn Resorts Ltd. With the deal, Mr Kerkorian took on ownership of the Mirage, Treasure Island, the Bellagio, the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas and the Boardwalk Hotel and Casino on Las Vegas Boulevard, among other properties in the United States.
In August 2000, MGM became MGM Mirage following the merger of MGM and Mirage Resorts. Until May 2009 Mr Kerkorian and Tracinda were the majority shareholders in MGM Mirage. In June 2010, shareholders voted to change the casino company’s name to MGM Resorts International.
The businessman was also known for buying and selling the film production house MGM Studios three times, each time realising a profit on his investment. He also invested heavily in the auto industry and made unsuccessful attempts to take over Chrysler in the 1990s before taking stakes in General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co in the 2000s.
Mr Kerkorian rarely gave interviews and avoided the limelight. In May this year, Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at US$4.2 billion.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China