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Billionaire Kerkorian, a Founder of Modern Las Vegas, Dies at 98

FILE - Kirk Kerkorian, speaks to reporters at the Nevada Gaming Control Board hearing in Las Vegas, Feb. 22, 2005.

U.S. billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who went from being the son of poor Armenian immigrants to the builder of resort hotels and owner of a legendary film studio, died Monday at age 98.

No cause of death was given.

The California-born Kerkorian dropped out of school as a young boy and worked at a variety of jobs, including as a boxer. He used his World War II flying skills to found an airline to transport gamblers to and from the then-burgeoning tourist town of Las Vegas, Nevada.

The success of the airline allowed him to buy land in the desert resort on which he built the International Hotel in 1969 and the MGM Grand four years later. Both were the world's biggest hotels when they opened.

Kerkorian also bought and sold the MGM film studio three separate times, but failed in a bid to take over Chrysler, the third-largest U.S. car builder.

Despite his multibillion-dollar fortune, Kerkorian was a modest man who avoided the limelight and the press.

He bought his own seat in the stands at major sporting events and shunned limousines in favor of driving himself in his own station wagon. His charitable works were generally unreported.