Kirk Kerkorian at the International Hotel in 1968.
This started as a quick post on the impact Kirk Kerkorian has had on my life, but turned into a couple thousand-word ode of sorts. It’s a four-part series that I’ll send out to our free newsletter subscribers next week. Sign up to the free daily newsletter get the final mini-ebook in a few days.
Part I: The making of a visionary
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Part II: The hustle begins
Part III: MGM
Part IV: Fade to black
Kirk Kerkorian passed away nine days ago.
Kirk approached dealmaking with a chip on his shoulder.
He was a truly an unwanted child. His mother, Lily Kerkorian, was told to take scalding baths to induce an abortion. She did it. It didn’t work.
Kirk was resilient, even before birth.
Nine days after his 98th birthday, death finally caught up to Kirk. But not before this true corporate raider put his mark on the investing industry.
His father, a fruit broker in LA, moved the family around every few months because they couldn’t afford rent. This appears to have helped teach Kirk an important lesson in life, applicable to investing as well, don’t get attached. Anything and everything can be taken away.
But Kirk wasn’t perfect. He once invested $50,000 in a Vegas hotel during his early days, but ultimately lost it all. However, another lesson he learned from his dad’s failures that softened the blow of losing $50,000 was, don’t bet everything you have on one roll of the dice, because if you fail you won’t have anything left to bet next time.
Kirk had the ultimate sixth sense: The ability to see around corners.
Many overlook Kirk’s foray into autos, where he teamed up with Lee Iacocca in the 90s to make a hostile bid for Chrysler [Iacocca was the former Chrysler CEO]. Kirk’s advisor, Michael Tennenbaum of Bear Stearns, was dumbfounded when Kirk wanted to invest in the auto space in the early 90s.
At the time, Chrysler was the number three automaker, with a hefty dead load. Tennenbaum recommended having Bear Stearns have a closer look at Chrysler for him. Kirk refused and Tennenbaum complained to then Bear Stearns’ chairman, Alan Greenberg. Greenberg told Tennenbaum, “Don’t tell Babe Ruth how to hold his bat.” Over the next couple years, shares of Chrysler more than tripled.
Kirk is often compared to Howard Hughes, who also flew planes, owned a Hollywood studio, an airline and Vegas casinos. Kirk and Howard actually met. Yet, Kirk remained humbled by Howard, noting that “this guy broke real speed records. He designed airplanes. He was a great engineer. He did huge things.”
Kirk is a big reason I do what I do. He was a true trailblazer. A true corporate raider and visionary, very much unlike some of the mickey mouse stuff we see from today’s activist investors.
Kirk Kerkorian. The self-made billionaire. The Armenian. The enigma. The reason.
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