An Ode To Kirk Kerkorian: The Hustle Begins

Kirk Kerkorian at the construction of the International Hotel in 1968.

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

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Part II: The Hustle begins

Kirk Kerkorian passed away eight days ago.

During the 40s, Kirk really started his hustle. After he quit boxing, Kirk took an interest in flying. He cut a deal with a flight school owner where he’d get flying lessons in return for doing work on the owner’s farm. After six months of shoveling manure, Kirk had a commercial pilot’s license.

He tried his hand at being a flight instructor, but needed more of a thrill. He signed up with the Canadian Air Force to fly risky missions in World War II. The risky trips paid fairly well, but for good reason. The trips included flying Mosquito bombers from Canada to England, with only about one-in-four actually making the trip due to the long distance and treacherous weather. In just over two years, Kirk flew over 30 missions.

After the war, he used the money he saved up from the missions to move to Vegas and buy a single-engine plane, which he used to start a charter business. He did the mechanic work, sold the tickets and flew the plane. As his business grew he began buying up more transport planes to grow his LA to Vegas charter business.

This was his first real taste for the potential that gambling had in Vegas. With his charter business profits, Kirk started putting his money to work buying hotels in Vegas.

Kirk owned the Desert Inn and the Strip parcel, which he sold to the company that ultimately turned that property into the Caesar’s Palace in 1966. He built the International Hotel in 1969 [construction pictured above], which is now the LVH on Paradise Road. But it was when the 70s rolled around that Kirk started becoming more of a household name when he first took control of MGM from the Seagram’s family.

You can see part I here. Stay tuned to part III.