Kirk Kerkorian and the Modern Megaresort Boom

In 1993, Kirk Kerkorian opened his second MGM Grand, about a mile south of Bally's-Las Vegas on the Strip at Tropicana Avenue. The hotel had a world-record 5,000-plus rooms, a 15,000-seat arena and a 330-acre theme park. Kerkorian's second MGM Grand was the first Las Vegas hotel to cost $1 billion to build. Its casino, at 171,500 square feet, was almost double the size of most on the Strip.

The MGM Grand continued and expanded on the growth of luxury accommodations on the Strip. It offered a variety of suites, eventually including skylofts of up to 6,000 square feet. Kerkorian's hotel jumped into the trend of celebrity chefs, with restaurants helmed by Joel Robuchon and Michael Mina. Entertainment included an elaborate production show, EFX, whose stars included Michael Crawford, David Cassidy, and Rick Springfield, before it joined the trend toward Cirque du Soleil shows with KA.

The MGM Grand Theme Park reflected a short-lived trend of emphasizing Las Vegas as a family destination. As Kerkorian's International and original MGM Grand showed, Las Vegas hotels long had offered attractions for families. Other hotels of the 1990s promoted theme parks and thrill rides. But eventually Las Vegas turned to different marketing techniques, and the MGM Grand replaced its theme park with a concert arena and a conference center.

In 1997, Kerkorian opened another hotel-casino across the street in partnership with Gary Primm and Primadonna Resorts—the New York New York, complete with replicas of the Statue of Liberty and other New York landmarks. He later bought out Primm's share. And there would be other buyouts.

In 2000, Steve Wynn saw shares in his Mirage Resorts falling, following the great success Wynn's company had only recently enjoyed with its megaresorts The Mirage, Treasure Island, and Bellagio. Kerkorian turned his long expertise on the stock market to advantage. Wynn accepted an offer from Kerkorian to buy Mirage Resorts for $6.4 billion, then a deal of record size in Las Vegas.

Kerkorian renamed his gaming company MGM Mirage, and retained a commanding share of the public company. MGM Mirage became the world's second largest gaming company (to Harrah's Entertainment). In 2004, MGM Mirage then engineered another major corporate merger with Mandalay Resorts, owner of the Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, and Mandalay Bay, and co-owner of the Monte Carlo. The acquisition, worth $9.7 billion, meant Kerkorian's company owned ten major hotel-casinos in Las Vegas and others in Mississippi and Michigan. Kerkorian also stayed busy playing with his shares in car companies. In 1995, while the top shareholder in Chrysler, he tried and failed to buy the company. He turned to car builder General Motors and bought ten percent of it. He sold his GM shares in 2006 when two car makers, Renault of France and Nissan of Japan, rejected his plea to join GM in a global auto consortium.

In 2005, Kerkorian sold his MGM studio to Sony Entertainment, the cable TV firm Comcast and other investors for $5 billion, and a personal profit of $1.8 billion. One of the world's richest men, his net worth was put at $10 billion by Forbes in 2005. In 2007, Kerkorian, showed no signs of slowing down at age 89; he had his Tracinda Corporation offer to put up $4.5 billion in cash to buy the renamed Chrysler Group car company. He also expressed interest in buying the Bellagio and Project City Center from MGM Mirage for Tracinda.

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