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MGM Resorts Founder Kirk Kerkorian Dies

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Jerry Abbott/Las Vegas News Bureau

Caesars Palace groundbreaking Januaru 26, 1965. Jay Sarno is pictured second from left, Kirk Kerkorian is third from left.

Kirk Kerkorian, who made his name in Las Vegas when he built the International in 1969, has died. He was 98.

Kerkorian’s death was confirmed Tuesday by MGM Resorts International, the Las Vegas-based gaming company he founded in the early 1990s. Kerkorian, who turned 98 on June 6, was the largest shareholder in MGM Resorts.

Anthony Mandekic, the chief executive of Kerkorian’s private investment company, Tracinda Corp., told the Los Angeles Times Kerkorian died Monday night at his home in Beverly Hills.

Kerkorian invested in a number of industries during his career, including Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios, United Artists, even the now defunct Western Airlines. He even accumulated large shares in Chrysler Corp. when the automaker was considered near defunct in the early 1980s.

He sold off his shares as the company revered. Kerkorian did the same with General Motors in 2005.

But, Kerkorian will be remembered most for his dealings in Las Vegas. Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business Magazine, told KNPR's State of Nevada Kerkorian will "be remembered as one of the pioneers of Las Vegas."

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Kerkorian eventually built or acquired many of the Strip’s most famous properties, including the Bellagio, the Mirage and the MGM Grand.

Jim Murren, CEO of MGM Resorts, said in a statement Tuesday that the gaming company was “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.”

Kerkorian’s casino-resorts in Las Vegas were all considered the largest casino-hotels when they were built, beginning with the International, now the Westgate, in 1969. He followed the International with the original MGM Grand in 1973, which is now Bally’s, and the current MGM Grand in 1993.

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Milt Palmer/Las Vegas News Bureau

Kirk Kerkorian, center, at the groundbreaking of the International Hotel on Feb. 2, 1968.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Tuesday it was Kerkorian who played an influential role in getting the $8.5 billion CityCenter project off the ground and built.

“Personally, he was a friend and coach, who taught me the importance of looking forward, and to look back only to understand how things could be done better,” Murren said.

Kerkorian is survived by two daughters, Tracy Kerkorian and Linda Ross Hilton Kemper, and three grandchildren. Funeral services are pending.

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Roger Gros, publisher, Global Gaming Business Magazine

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