Las Vegas Mogul Kirk Kerkorian Dies at 98

By Paul Riegler on 16 June 2015
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The Las Vegas strip

The Las Vegas strip

Kirk Kekorian, an investor who played a central role in Las Vegas’ renaissance, died Monday night in Los Angeles after a brief illness.

Kekorian built some of Las Vegas’ biggest hotels, starting with the 30-story, 1,568-room International Hotel, which, when it opened in the 1960s, was the world’s largest.  He became wealthy after starting Trans International Airlines, a business venture that ferried gamblers to Las Vegas using surplus warplanes.

He continued to invest in Vegas, purchasing 80 acres of property on the Las Vegas strip in the 1960s, the site where Caesars Palace now stands. In 1969, he acquired Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios (he would end up purchasing and selling MGM three times in his lifetime) and opened the International Hotel, the world’s largest hotel at the time, with Barbra Streisand performing there on opening night.  That hotel still stands today as the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino.

In 1973, Kekorian opened the original MGM Grand Hotel and Casino that today is Bally’s Las Vegas, after a stint as the Las Vegas Hilton.  The original MGM Grand was also the largest hotel when it opened and would remain so for several years.   In 1993, he opened the 5,000-room MGM Grand Las Vegas at another location.  That hotel featured a “Wizard of Oz” theme at the time of its opening, down to the green Emerald City color of the building and extensive use of Wizard of Oz memorabilia.

Kekorian also invested in Detroit’s automobile industry.  In 1990, he agreed to invest in Chrysler, which was on shaky ground at the time due to a sales slump, and he launched an unsuccessful takeover attempt five years later.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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