The Gambler: How Penniless Dropout Kirk Kerkorian Became the Greatest Deal Maker in Capitalist History
February 11 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
The Gambler is 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.
When he died in 2015, Kerkorian had outlived many of his closest friends and associates. 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.
Veteran investigative reporter and storyteller William C. Rempel meticulously pieces together revealing fragments of Kerkorian’s life, collected from diverse sources—war records, business archives, court documents, and the recollections and recorded memories of longtime pals and relatives. Through extensive research and interviews with those who knew Kerkorian best— close associates, lawyers, bankers, his personal valet and fitness guru, former tennis partners, and his longtime companion and widow, Una Davis—Rempel weaves rare personal insights and dramatic moments in American business history into an epic tale about an intriguing life filled with surprises and colorful characters.
Kerkorian’s business savvy and accomplishments were wide ranging and long lasting. He was a billionaire and a philanthropist who shaped and shook up a handful of industries, yet he remained a mystery that some mistakenly compared to the reclusive and eccentric fellow billionaire, Howard Hughes. Their only similarities were vast wealth, a visionary streak and a craving for privacy.
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. However, he wasn’t the voracious corporate raider some suggested. He was a tough negotiator who could have run Steve Wynn out of Las Vegas, but didn’t; and who could have turned Ted Turner’s cable news station CNN into “Kerkorian Network News,” but didn’t. Kerkorian 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 about five. 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, 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. Kerkorian’s life was truly an American success story. With THE GAMBLER, Rempel illuminates this unknown, self-made man and his inspiring legacy as never before.
The Friends are co-sponsoring this special author presentation with Glendale Library, Arts & Culture, and with the Armenian Professional Society.
Copies of the The Gambler will be on sale (cash, check, credit). Please use Eventbrite.com to RSVP for the event and help the Friends of the Library determine the number of books to bring for sales and autographs.
Visitors to the Downtown Central Library receive 3 hours FREE parking across Harvard Street at the Marketplace parking structure with validation at the service desk. Handicapped parking is available on the east side of the building. Short term parking spaces are available on the east and south sides of the building. Metered parking is available on Harvard Street and on the west side of the building in Lot #10.