US & Canada

Kirk Kerkorian, billionaire Las Vegas mogul, dies at 98

Kirk Kerkorian outside court in Wilmington, Delaware - 3 December 2003 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Kirk Kerkorian owned some of the biggest and best-known hotels in Las Vegas

Kirk Kerkorian, the son of Armenian immigrants who became a billionaire Las Vegas mogul, has died at the age of 98.

The veteran US businessman was the largest shareholder in MGM Resorts International, which owns the MGM Grand and Bellagio hotels in Las Vegas.

He was well known for buying and then selling the MGM film studio three times, making a profit each time.

Kerkorian was reported to have died on Monday night in Los Angeles but no cause of death has been given.

"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 a statement.

A school dropout at 16, Kerkorian became a boxer and later flew dangerous missions delivering warplanes from Canada to Britain during World War Two.

He carried on flying after the war and opened a charter flight business ferrying gamblers who wanted to get from Los Angeles to Las Vegas more quickly than by driving.

He began buying property in Las Vegas in 1962 after selling his charter airline, which he later re-purchased.

"When you're a self-made man you start very early in life," he once told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "You get a drive that's a little different, maybe a little stronger, than somebody who inherited."

He was also a player in the automobile industry, losing a battle for control of Chrysler in the 1990s before taking stakes in General Motors and Ford in the 2000s.

In May this year, Forbes magazine estimated Kerkorian's wealth at $4.2bn (£2.7bn) after taking a hit on his investments during the financial crisis in 2008, when the magazine said he was worth $16bn.

"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," MGM chief executive Jim Murren said in a statement.

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