A mammoth figure in the world of gaming and resorts Kirk Kerkorian has passed away in Las Vegas at the beautiful age of 98. A man who had a major impact on all the investments he made over the years and up to the time of his passing. His impact will be long lasting on the landscape of The Strip in Las Vegas Casino lore. Check out Phil Ruffins toast to his long time friend and competitor…as published in Forbes.
Phil Ruffin Offers Farewell Toast To Fellow Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian (1917-2015)
KIRK KERKORIAN, who built a $4 billion fortune in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, died June 15, nine days after his 98th birthday. An eighth-grade dropout, he trained fighter pilots during World War II, built a charter flight company, founded MGM Resorts MGM +0.11% International and made and lost billions as the consummate dealmaker in movies, hospitality and the auto industry. Fellow billionaire and man-about-Vegas Phil Ruffin remembers his longtime friend and occasional sparring partner.
By Phil Ruffin (As told to Dan Alexander)
Kirk did deals the old-school way. Back in 2008 I was buying the Treasure Island casino, which used to be owned by MGM. I met with Jim Murren, the company’s chairman and CEO, in the Bellagio and offered him $700 million cash. He called Kerkorian, who was still the biggest shareholder–and clearly the boss. He told Jim he wanted $150 million more. I said no thanks and walked out.
Kirk being Kirk, he got on a plane to talk it over face-to-face at the Bellagio. I said, “Kirk, I think we’re just too far apart.” I was at $700 million, he at $850. “Why don’t we split the difference?” I said. “I’ll give you $750.”
“Do the math,” he countered. “That’s not half. We’re splitting it $775.” He might have been 92, but he was sharp as ever. On his way out he turned to me. “Don’t let the lawyers screw this up.” They didn’t: We did the deal for $775 million on the dot.
Kirk paved the way for guys like me. He was a giant in Vegas, but his interests spanned the globe. He tried to buy Chrysler once–and was probably lucky that he didn’t end up doing so. A big tennis guy, he was always inviting people to Los Angeles to play. Flying, too, was a hobby for both of us. We probably owned too many planes, but we loved chatting about them.
He wasn’t known for his philanthropy, but mostly because he chose not to be. Bob Dole once told me a story: He called Kirk to see if he’d be willing to donate to the University of Kansas, the senator’s alma mater. Kirk wasn’t an alum, just a friend of Bob’s. In two days Bob had a check for a half-million dollars.
I never looked at Kirk’s finances, but I understand he gave away billions without talking about it much. When Kirk Kerkorian said something, you could put it in the bank.
Link to story on Forbes: