This started as a quick post on the impact Kirk Kerkorian has had on my life path, but has quickly turned into a few thousand-word ode of sorts. With that, I’m breaking it into a multi-part series, likely four installments. At the end, I’ll package it up and send it out to free newsletter subscribers. Sign up to the free daily newsletter get the final mini-ebook in a few days.
Part I: The Making Of A Visionary
Kirk Kerkorian passed away a week ago today.
The activist community lost an icon. But in reality, the entire investing industry should be mourning his passing.
When you hear the term corporate raider you think of a Carl Icahn or even Nelson Peltz from the 80s, and some of you true ballers know Victor Posner and Asher Edelman.
But Kirk was making deals when Carl Icahn was still in diapers. Icahn was four years old when Kirk had already dropped out of school and been working for half his life.
Kirk wasn’t well known by everyday investors. He liked it that way. He could walk into any of his casinos and hotels and never be noticed.
Former SVP of MGM, Peter Bart, recounted Kirk from the 90s, calling him an enigma. He wasn’t a showman like Steve Wynn, never naming a hotel-casino after himself.
Mainly, because he wasn’t fueled by the public spotlight like Warren Buffett or Carl Icahn, but rather, he was fueled by the art of the deal, win or lose. Lee Iacocca called Kirk a “...born gambler with a sixth sense for sniffing out value. Doing deals is what keeps him alive.” And it kept him alive for 98 years.
Born to immigrants, Armenian was Kirk’s first language. He isn’t “well educated” by Wall Street standards, never making it past the eighth grade. Kirk once said, “I wish I could talk like Donald Trump or Steve Wynn. Hell, I’d love it.”
Carl Icahn likes to talk about his roughneck childhood in Far Rockaway Queens and the stacked odds he had against him, quoted as saying, “My parents never thought I’d amount to much.” But any man that goes to Princeton University has been afforded some opportunities.
Ahorn Kerkorian, Kirk's father, was a fruit broker in LA, forced to move the family every few months because they couldn’t pay the rent. And while Icahn dropped out of New York University School of Medicine after three years, Kirk dropped out of Jacob Riis, the delinquent boys school, in eighth grade.
After dropping out of Jacob Riis, Kirk turned to boxing, ultimately becoming a Pacific amateur boxer. His nickname was Rifle Right Kerkorian and he ended his career with a 29-4 record. But it wasn't until after boxing and during the 1940s that Kirk really started his hustle.
Stay tuned for Part II.