Legendary tycoon Kirk Kerkorian, pictured in 2003, who built iconic Las Vegas resorts and was a major investor in automakers and film studios, died at age 98 .
New York (AFP) – Legendary tycoon Kirk Kerkorian, who built iconic Las Vegas resorts and was a major investor in automakers and film studios, died late Monday, MGM Resorts International spokesman Clark Dumont said.
Kerkorian, 98, passed away at 11 pm (0600 GMT) local time in Los Angeles, Dumont said Tuesday. No cause of death was 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.
“He was also a generous humanitarian who donated hundreds of millions of dollars to charities worldwide.”
An eighth grade dropout from an Armenian-American family, Kerkorian built the foundation of his empire in Las Vegas, constructing the iconic MGM International in 1969 and MGM Grand in 1973.
Kerkorian was also a major auto investor, sparring for control of Chrysler in the 1990s before pushing a deal to sell the US giant to Germany’s Daimler-Benz.
In the 2000s he also took stakes in General Motors and then Ford.
He continued to do major deals well into his 80s, buying big Las Vegas casinos for billions early in the new millennium.
Kerkorian took a hit after the 2008 financial crisis, but remained the largest shareholder in MGM Resorts International at the time of his death.
MGM chief executive Jim Murren paid tribute to Kerkorian, listed by Forbes as the world’s 393rd richest person with net worth of $4 billion.
“MGM Resorts and our family of 62,000 employees are honoring the memory of a great man, a great business leader, a great community leader, an innovator, and one of our country’s greatest generation,” Murren said.