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Kirk Kerkorian

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  • Kirk Kerkorian

    Kirk Kerkorian: Profile of a generous billionaire and people’s hero who has made a lasting impact


    by Armenian Reporter staff

    Published: Friday October 23, 2009

    People in Armenia were asked recently to name individuals they considered national heroes. Predictably, the list was dominated by military and political leaders of the recent and more distant past like Vazgen Sargsian, Andranik Ozanian, and King Tigran the Great.

    The only two contemporaries who were named by significant numbers of respondents were singer Charles Aznavour and businessperson Kirk Kerkorian.

    Mr. Kerkorian, 92, a self-made billionaire, is in a category apart in the Armenian world.

    He is the only Armenian to be listed among America's and the world's richest people for over a decade. He was, as of 2006, the richest resident of Los Angeles. He has been the largest individual contributor to the development of Armenia's infrastructure and diaspora's institutions. An epitome of Armenians' entrepreneurial and patriotic spirit, he is a source of pride for Armenians.

    Mr. Kerkorian is also known for his insistent avoidance of public recognition of his efforts.

    Early life in Saroyan country
    He was born Kerkor Kerkorian in Fresno, California, to Aharon and Lily Kerkorian, Armenian immigrants with roots in Kharpert (Harput) in present-day Turkey. The youngest of four children, Kerkor spoke Armenian at home and learned English in the streets.

    Aharon Kerkorian was a watermelon and raisin farmer who did well until hard times struck in 1921. As was typical of the times, the younger Kerkorian began working as a kid, selling produce and newspapers, and later washing, repairing, and re-selling cars.

    Raised during the Depression, the young Kerkorian, like many of his contemporaries, never went to high school, dropping out of school after the eighth grade.

    Mr. Kerkorian was only nine years younger than his famous compatriot and fellow San Joaquin valley native William Saroyan, but it is unclear when and if their paths crossed.

    In an early claim to fame in 1937, Mr. Kerkorian became the Pacific amateur boxing champ in the welterweight category and was known as "Rifle Right" for his technique, which helped him win 33 fights.

    Getting his wings
    But it was Kerkorian's passion for flying that became his ticket to financial success.

    After his first flight on a single-engine plane, he worked as a cattle-ranch hand in exchange for flying lessons at a school ran by celebrity female aviator "Pancho" Barnes.

    During World War II, Mr. Kerkorian, by then a licensed pilot, joined the British Royal Air Force as a civilian contractor flying bombers built in Canada to the United Kingdom.

    The job was high risk. The bombers' tanks could hold fuel enough for only part of the flight, with pilots relying on favorable winds to glide their aircraft for the remainder of the journey over icy waters. One in four would not make it. Mr. Kerkorian made 33 flights over two and a-half years.

    After the war, he had $12,000 saved, enough to launch his own aviation business.

    In 1947 Mr. Kerkorian paid $60,000 for the Los Angeles Air Service, a small charter airline that flew between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, which was the just emerging as America's gambling capital.

    He sold the airline, which he renamed Trans International Airlines, in 1962, only to buy it back in 1965, and sell it again to TransAmerica Corp. for $104 million.

    The maker of Las Vegas
    Starting in 1962, Mr. Kerkorian began investing in Las Vegas real estate. He initially rented and then sold land to Caesar's Palace casino, earning $9 million in the process.

    After leaving the aviation business, he built the International and Flamingo hotels in 1969, before selling both to the Hilton chain the following year. As of the time of his entry into Las Vegas, Mr. Kerkorian helped change its image into one of a popular and family-friendly vacation destination.

    In 1969, Mr. Kerkorian purchased the famous Hollywood studio Metrox-xGoldwynx-xMeyer (MGM) and later the Universal Artists studio; the merged MGM/UA was sold to Ted Turner in 1985 for $1.5 billion.

    Mr. Kerkorian repurchased the studio several years later for $780 million, only to sell it again for $1.3 billion, buy it back again, and finally sell it to Sony for $2.9 billion in 2004.

    In 1990, Mr. Kerkorian turned his attention to America's ailing automotive giants, purchasing and then selling large shares in Chrysler and more recently the General Motors and Ford.

    Reflecting his aversion to luxury in his personal life, Mr. Kerkorian drives relatively inexpensive American cars, such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Taurus. And even as the studio owner, Mr. Krekorian reportedly insisted on standing in line and buying movie tickets of his own.

    Mr. Kerkorian remains the largest shareholder in the MGM Mirage, the second-largest gaming and resort company in the world, which owns the current MGM Grand complex, the Bellagio, the Mirage, the New York-New York, Circus-Circus, Mandalay Bay, The Luxor, Excalibur, and the under-construction CityCenter, all in Las Vegas.

    According to Forbes magazine estimates, at its height Mr. Kerkorian's fortune amounted to $16 billion before the current economic crisis brought it down to an estimated $3 billion this year.

    He remains among America's 100 richest men and women.

    A grand philanthropist
    Mr. Kerkorian is considered one of America's most generous billionaires, having given away as much as one-fifth of his total fortune to charitable causes.

    Armenia has been one of the largest beneficiaries, but Mr. Kerkorian has also been generous to Armenian diaspora communities, as well as his two homes states of California and Nevada. At the same time, he has refused to have anything named in his honor.

    Mr. Kerkorian's diaspora investments more recently included millions for Lebanon's Armenian community in 2006 as well as Armenian schools in California. In the past, his Lincy Foundation also provided annual support for the Armenian Assembly of America.

    Among major beneficiaries are the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (in part for its recently launched partnership with the Washington-based Brookings Institution); the Clark County School District, which includes Las Vegas; St. Rose Dominican Hospitals in Henderson, Nev.; the Nevada Cancer Institute; University of California at Irvine; and many others.

    The lifter of Armenia's spirit
    Between 2001 and 2008, Mr. Kerkorian's Armenia programs administered through the Lincy Foundation amounted to $230 million.

    In addition to direct involvement, the foundation also supported the Catholic Medical Mission Board, which has assisted Armenia's healthcare system; the Armenian American Wellness Center; the Armenian Technology Group, involved in agriculture; and the Eurasia Foundation, which supports pro-democracy programs; among others.

    Lincy meanwhile provides airlifts to Armenia through the United Armenian Fund.

    On surface, Lincy's infrastructure programs gave the country a sorely needed facelift. Most of the money went into road and housing construction (particularly in the earthquake-ravaged north of the country), as well as for repairs of Armenia's public buildings, including museums.

    But more than cosmetics, Mr. Kerkorian's money came to Armenia at the time when few others would invest, and total government spending ran at a mere $400 million a year. Lincy program gave Armenia a boost that helped it regain its self-confidence and attract more investors, fueling the construction boom of the last decade.

    In spite of Mr. Kerkorian's aversion for publicity, these heroics have not gone unnoticed.

    "Every Armenian household is familiar with the name of Kirk Kerkorian," said Hranush Hakobyan, Armenia's diaspora minister. With his contributions, Mr. Kerkorian, who was awarded the title, National Hero of the Republic of Armenia, "helped in the establishment and development of the Armenian state," she added.


    http://reporter.am/index.cfm?objecti...3FF3452C2&pg=1
    For the first time in more than 600 years, Armenia is free and independent, and we are therefore obligated
    to place our national interests ahead of our personal gains or aspirations.



    http://www.armenianhighland.com/main.html

  • #2
    Re: Kirk Kerkorian

    A great man and a great philanthropist.

    I wonder if he has helped set up business ventures to help develop the Armenian economy.

    I am aware of the help he has given to build the countries' infrastructure over and above his other charitable donations
    Politics is not about the pursuit of morality nor what's right or wrong
    Its about self interest at personal and national level often at odds with the above.
    Great politicians pursue the National interest and small politicians personal interests

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Kirk Kerkorian

      It seems to me Kerkorian was patient and bought and sold at the right times around the regular cycles of the American economy which is usually directly related to its foreign policy. Perhaps he grasped an understanding of America's economic cycles by participating in the military.
      "Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you're a man, you take it." ~Malcolm X

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      • #4
        Re: Kirk Kerkorian

        Good news everyone! I've figured out a way to use two different watch / unwatched overlays so now I can add them to the text-based lists. Update soon!
        __________________
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        • #5
          Re: Kirk Kerkorian

          .



          I have put this here because of some important clarifications about Kirk Kirkorian and Lincy Foundation.

          .
          Politics is not about the pursuit of morality nor what's right or wrong
          Its about self interest at personal and national level often at odds with the above.
          Great politicians pursue the National interest and small politicians personal interests

          Comment

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