Armenian American billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who founded MGM Resorts International, has died in Los Angeles at age 98, the gaming company said Tuesday.
The legendary business icon passed away Monday night after suffering from a brief illness, the Las Vegas Review-Journal first reported.
“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,” MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren said in a statement.
“Mr. Kerkorian combined brilliant business insight with steadfast integrity to become one of the most reputable and influential financiers of our time,” Murren added.
Kerkorian is credited as being the major force behind evolving the Las Vegas Strip into one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
The powerhouse founded MGM Resorts International in the early 1990s. He also owned Tracinda Corporation, a private investment firm based in Beverly Hills.
Kerkorian was born in Fresno, Calif., in 1917 to Armenian-born parents. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1922 and at age 9, Kerkorian sold newspapers on street corners. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade and became an amateur boxer.
From his humble beginnings, Kerkorian became one of the world’s richest men. At the time of his death, Forbes Magazine ranked Kerkorian No. 393 among the world’s billionaires and No. 130 in the U.S. with a net worth of $4 billion.
Kerkorian became a national hero in Armenia both for his success and for his donations for roads, schools and other infrastructure there through his charitable arm, the Lincy Foundation.