The Gambler: How Penniless Dropout Kirk Kerkorian Became the Greatest Deal Maker in Capitalist History

The Gambler: How Penniless Dropout Kirk Kerkorian Became the Greatest Deal Maker in Capitalist History

by William C. Rempel

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“Offers an entertaining look at Kerkorian’s outsize life… an interesting portrait of a billionaire.”Wall Street Journal

The rags-to-riches story of one of America’s wealthiest and least-known financial giants, self-made billionaire Kirk Kerkorian—the daring aviator, movie mogul, risk-taker, and business tycoon who transformed Las Vegas and Hollywood to become one of the leading financiers in American business.

Kerkorian combined the courage of a World War II pilot, the fortitude of a scrappy boxer, the cunning of an inscrutable poker player and an unmatched genius for making deals. He never put his name on a building, but when he died he owned almost every major hotel and casino in Las Vegas. He envisioned and fostered a new industry —the leisure business. Three times he built the biggest resort hotel in the world. Three times he bought and sold the fabled MGM Studios, forever changing the way Hollywood does business.

His early life began as far as possible from a place on the Forbes List of Billionaires when he and his Armenian immigrant family lost their farm to foreclosure. He was four. They arrived in Los Angeles penniless and moved often, staying one step ahead of more evictions. Young Kirk learned English on the streets of L.A., made pennies hawking newspapers and dropped out after eighth grade. How he went on to become one of the richest and most generous men in America—his net worth as much as $20 billion—is a story largely unknown to the world. That’s because what Kerkorian valued most was his privacy. His very private life turned to tabloid fodder late in life when a former professional tennis player falsely claimed that the eighty-five-year-old billionaire fathered her child.

In this engrossing biography, investigative reporter William C. Rempel digs deep into Kerkorian’s long-guarded history to introduce a man of contradictions—a poorly educated genius for deal-making, an extraordinarily shy man who made the boldest of business ventures, a careful and calculating investor who was willing to bet everything on a single roll of the dice.

Unlike others of his status and importance, Kerkorian made few public appearances and strenuously avoided personal publicity. His friends and associates, however, were some of the biggest names in business, entertainment, and sports—among them Howard Hughes, Ted Turner, Steve Wynn, Michael Milken, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley, Mike Tyson, and Andre Agassi.

When he died in 2015 two years shy of the century mark, Kerkorian had outlived many of his closest friends and associates. Now, Rempel meticulously pieces together revealing fragments of Kerkorian’s life, collected from diverse sources—war records, business archives, court documents, news clippings and the recollections and recorded memories of longtime pals and relatives. In The Gambler, Rempel illuminates this unknown, self-made man and his inspiring legacy as never before.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062456793
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Publication date: 01/23/2018
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 389,696
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

William C. Rempel is a veteran investigative reporter and editor who specialized in foreign and national projects. During a thirty-six-year career at the Los Angeles Times, he produced groundbreaking reports on subjects ranging from oil tanker safety prior to the Exxon Valdez disaster to the menace of al-Qaeda prior to September 11, 2001. He has received numerous journalism honors, including a shared Overseas Press Club Award for international terrorism reports and a Gerald Loeb Award for financial writing. He was also a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.

Table of Contents

A Note to Readers xiii

Prologue: Introducing Kirk Kerkorian 1

I The Making Of A Man

1 Gambling on the Wind 9

2 The Kid from Weedpatch 15

3 Bet of a Lifetime 39

4 Scraps, Craps, and John Wayne 45

5 On a Wing and a Spare Tank 49

6 Bugsy Siegel's Last Flight 57

7 Art of the Junk Deal 65

8 Gambling on Gambling 73

9 Jack Magic and the Blade 77

10 A Crapshooter's Dream 83

11 His First Million 89

12 The Armenian Connection 97

II The Making Of A Billionaire

13 Trouble with Mobsters 109

14 A Clash of Tycoons 119

15 A $73 Million Side Bet 131

16 Hello, World! 141

17 Gary and Kirk and Barbra and Elvis 147

18 The Smiling Cobra 155

19 A Kick in the Ass 163

20 Making Debbie Reynolds Cry 173

21 The Rival Vanishes 183

22 Putting On the Moves 189

23 A View to the Abyss 195

24 Extra Risk Factor 203

25 Punch, Counterpunch 211

26 MGM Spells Disaster 219

27 Villain of the Actuaries 229

28 One Roll of the Dice 239

29 Ted Turner's Ticking Time Bomb 245

30 A Burial at Sea 251

31 Among the Billionaires 257

III The Making Of A Legend

32 Babe Ruth at Bat 269

33 The Iacocca Nuisance 277

34 She Persisted 289

35 Rifle Right Takes Iron Mike 299

36 Genocide and Generosity 307

37 Wynn and Lose 317

38 Fateful Attraction 329

39 A God Among Deal Makers 337

40 Breaking Bad 347

41 After "the Fall" 355

Epilogue: Kirk's Last Deal 367

Acknowledgments 373

Notes 375

Selected Bibliography 393

Index 397

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