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An Ode To Kirk Kerkorian: MGM

Kirk Kerkorian at the grand opening of Caesars Palace in '66. 

Kirk Kerkorian at the grand opening of Caesars Palace in '66. 

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

Part II: The hustle begins

Part III: MGM

Kirk Kerkorian passed away nine days ago.

Kirk might be best known for his dealings with MGM. Kirk first took control of MGM in 1969 with a hostile takeover and has had a unique love affair with the company ever since.

To gain control of MGM, Kirk won a battle against MGM chairman Edgar Bronfman, whose family founded the Seagram empire. Edgar was the chair of MGM for less than a year and only had it because of the Seagram family owned shares of the studio. Kirk bought a 40% stake in MGM for $80 million from the Seagram family and second largest shareholder Time Inc. A staple in the Jewish community, Edgar passed away at 84 in 2013.

Now, Kirk is known for his prowess in Vegas, but when he got involved with MGM in 1969, MGM was a major player in Hollywood. With Kirk in control, he dismantled the MGM movie making business and sold off MGM Records. The real appeal was the MGM Culver City real estate - the location of the former MGM Studios [since bought by Sony Entertainment].

In 1973, he built the MGM Grand Hotel in Vegas, the largest hotel in the world at the time. In the early 1980s, a fire closed down the original MGM Grand.

In the early 80s, Kirk bought United Artists for its library and merged it with MGM, creating MGM/UA Entertainment. Then, in the mid-80s, he sold MGM/UA to Ted Turner for $1.5 billion, roughly $28 a share, while the stock was trading at $9 a share. Just months later, he bought it back from Ted at a huge discount.

Kirk then sold it again in 1990 for $1.2 billion to Giancarlo Parretti. Ultimately, Giancarlo fell on hard times [money wise] and had to sell it to the French bank Credit Lyonnais in 1992. Kirk stepped in and bought MGM/UA from Credit Lyonnais in 1996.

In the meantime, Kirk was still in control at MGM Resorts, building the MGM Grand in 1993 - the largest hotel in the world at the time. Kirk built the largest hotel in the world on three different occasions, once in 1969, once in 1973 and then in 1993.

In 2000, MGM bought Mirage Resorts from Steve Wynn. Few people realize it, but Kirk was the real king of Vegas. Then, in 2005, Kirk sold MGM/UA to a consortium of private equity firms and Sony Corp. for $5 billion.

He was still MGM Resorts’ majority shareholder until 2009 when he dropped his stake from 54% to 37%, and eventually whittled it down to the current 16.2%.

Per his will, Kirk’s holding company, Tracinda Corp. (named after his two daughters Tracy and Linda), will be selling its 16.2% stake in MGM. Kirk’s legacy doesn’t end there, however.

See part I, part II and stay tuned for Part IV.