Kirk Kerkorian is an independently wealthy casino magnate.

Kirk Kerkorian is arguably best known for establishing the MGM Grand, one of the most opulent resorts on the Las Vegas Strip, but he has also been involved in a number of other business enterprises over the years. This self-made billionaire with no formal education beyond the eighth grade overcame insurmountable obstacles to create his fortune.

Continue reading this biography to learn more about Kirk Kerkorian, including his infancy, early passion for aviation, and influence on Las Vegas. We will never forget what he did for the gambling industry, and we will be eternally grateful for the legacy he left behind.

Early Years

On June 6, 1917, Kerkorian was born to Ahron and Lily Kerkorian. His parents recently immigrated to the United States with their three children from their native Armenia. They immigrated to the United States in order to escape the Armenian Genocide, in which millions of Armenians were murdered by the Ottoman government.

Even though they felt secure in the United States and had no plans to return to Armenia, they did not want their children to be entirely cut off from Armenian culture. Because of this, Kerkorian’s parents only spoke Armenian at home. Armenian was Kerkorian’s native tongue, as he did not acquire English until he began education.

Kerkorian enjoyed attending school. He was proficient in mathematics and the natural sciences and took up English rapidly. Unfortunately, the Great Depression placed his family in a dire financial situation. To help support his family financially, Kerkorian was compelled to leave education after the eighth grade. He sold fruits and vegetables with his father during the day and trained boxing at night.
He was an outstanding boxer who performed well in every competition he entered. As soon as he won the Pacific Amateur Welterweight Championship, people began dubbing him “Rifle Right Kerkorian.”

His passion for combat was quickly supplanted by a passion for aviation. After a coworker gave him a lift in his single-engine airplane, he wanted to learn how to fly. He agreed to care for her livestock in exchange for flying instruction in an agreement with Florence “Pancho” Barnes. Awed by his tenacity, she consented to accept him as her first student.

During World War II, he joined the Royal Canadian Airforce due to his proficiency in aviation. He was in charge of delivering aircraft to Scotland. Each journey he made netted him $1,000. He viewed this as a fantastic opportunity to save money, and by the time the conflict concluded, he had amassed sufficient funds to purchase his own aircraft.

Now that he had the appropriate transportation, he began to travel to Las Vegas frequently. His favorite casino game was craps, with roulette and blackjack following in close second and third, respectively. Kerkorian rapidly gained a reputation as a player who frequently won and lost tens of thousands of dollars at once.

In 1947, Kerkorian spent $60,000 on a small charter airline to generate additional funds for his wagering endeavors. He gave it the name Trans International Airline and began offering flights to Las Vegas. He eventually offered more domestic flights and then expanded to international flights.

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