Kirk Kerkorian: A Classic Rags-to-riches Story

Kirk Kerkorian was born in Fresno, California in 1917, on June 6th. Having Faced quite a variety phases of life, he stood against the odds and wrote his own classic, rags-to-riches success story. He dropped out from school after 8th grade and started practicing boxing to participate in the Pacific amateur welterweight championship. In 1939, he met Ted O’Flaherty who once invited him to sit by him and fly a plane. Though reluctant, Kirk agreed and the experience was so amazing that he ended up getting a commercial pilot license from Happy Bottom Riding Club. His flying expenses were born by Pancho Barnes, a renowned aviatrix, who, in return, asked him to take care of his farm and cattle.

After the World War II, he spent his savings $5000 on a Cessna, an aircraft manufacturer. He started working as a general aviation pilot and went to Las Vegas where he spent some time. In 1947, he paid $60,000 for a small air-charter service, Trans International Airlines, which would provide service to gamblers to fly Los Angeles to Las Vegas. In 1968, he sold it to the Transamerica Corporation for $104 million. And he moved to another business of purchasing and selling movie studios MGM Mirage which he sold to United Artist, Ted Turner. But extreme financial pressure forced Ted Turner to sell it back to Kirk Kerkorian. In 1990, the company was again owned by Giancarlo Parretti, an Italian financer and within six years in 1996, it came back to him. Finally he sold it to Sony in 2005 for $5 billion.

Kirk prefers to live a private life and for most of the time keeps himself away from public appearance. He has donated over $200 million through his charitable foundation. Through Lincy Foundation, he has donated $180 million to Armenia for which he was titled the Medal of Fatherland, the title carries the honor of national hero.
According to Forbes magazine of 2008, he was the 41th richest business man whose net worth is $16 billion. But, disastrous recession did not spare him and his rank in billionaire list dropped tremendously. Recently is the 307th richest across the world.


“People listen when he starts nosing around, … And it’s more than nosing around when you throw hundreds of millions on the table.”

I’m far from being reclusive. I have thirty or forty year friendships that I prefer to meeting new people. I go to an occasional party, but 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 anti-social or a recluse.

We had the same doomsday people when we were building the MGM Grand, same people, same doomsday. You have to ask a lot of questions and listen to people, but eventually, you have to go by your own instincts.