The opening of the new MGM Grand Hotel marks the third time that a company headed by Kirk Kerkorian has built the largest hotel in Las Vegas and the largest hotel/casino combination in the world. And the MGM Grand tops them all.
Following duty as a captain in the Royal Air Force and instructor pilot for the U.S. Air Force in World War II, Kerkorian started an air charter service that evolved into Trans Intl. Airlines, which he sold to Transamerica Corp. in 1966.
Four years earlier, he had become involved with Las Vegas hotel and casino properties by purchasing an 84-acre parcel that he leased and subsequently sold to the operators of what became Caesars Palace. He purchased the Flamingo Hotel in 1967 and two years later opened the 1,517-room International — at the time, the largest hotel in the world. In 1971, Kerkorian sold his International Leisure Corp. to Hilton Hotels.
Kerkorian continued his involvement in airlines, purchasing a controlling interest in Western Airlines in 1968, restructuring the company to operate at a profitable level, and selling his holdings in 1976. In 1987, he created MGM Grand Air, currently operating as a six-plane luxury charter service. Kerkorian purchased the MGM/UA Communications Corp. in 1969 and built the company from near-bankruptcy to a $ 1.3 billion operation involved in motion picture and television production and homevideo sales and marketing.
Through a complicated series of purchases and sales, Kerkorian had sold off all of his MGM/UA holdings by 1990.
In 1973, Kerkorian again opened the largest hotel in the world — the MGM Grand in Las Vegas — followed in 1978 by the MGM Grand-Reno. Both properties were sold to Bally’s in 1986.
MGM Grand Inc., in which Kerkorian is a majority shareholder, acquired the Las Vegas landmark Desert Inn and Sands hotel/casinos in 1988 from the Howard Hughes estate. The properties were subsequently sold.