Kirk Kerkorian's life began in poverty and ended in spectacular success.

Along the way, he founded an early airline, battled Howard Hughes for control of a germinating Las Vegas, counted icon Frank Sinatra as a friend, and owned interests in Hollywood studios MGM, United Artists and Columbia Pictures.

But in addition to his glamorous ventures into the gaming and entertainment world, he also made a name for himself in automotive circles.

After a brief association with Studebaker in the early 1960s, Kerkorian played a key role during the American auto industry's post-2000 shakeups. After an unsuccessful bid to control Chrysler, he earned billions in the ill-fated sale to Daimler-Benz, and invested heavily—warning it to ditch sinking HUMMER—in pre-bailout General Motors Company [NYSE:GM]. At one point, the billionaire owned nearly ten percent of the Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F]. And while many can argue with his decisions, few can argue against his influence during that critical period. 

Kerkorian died Monday at the age of 98 in Beverly Hills.  


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