Net worth: $16 billion
Son of Armenian immigrants, he dropped out of school in the eighth grade and took up boxing.
Kirk Kerkorian was born on June 6, 1917 in Fresno, California, to Armenian immigrant parents. Dropping out of school in 8th grade, he became a fairly skilled amateur boxer under the tutelage of his older brother, fighting under the name â€œRifle Right Kerkorianâ€ to win the Pacific amateur welterweight champion.
After the war, having saved most of his wages, Kerkorian spent $5,000 on a Cessna. He worked as a general aviation pilot, and made his first visit to Las Vegas in 1944. After spending much time in Las Vegas during the 1940s, Kerkorian quit gambling and in 1947 paid $60,000 for Trans International Airlines, which was a small air-charter service which flew gamblers from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
He then bid on some war surplus bombers, using money on loan from the Seagrams family. Gasoline, and especially airplane fuel, was in short supply at the time, so he sold the fuel from the planesâ€™ tanks, paid off his loan – and still had the airplanes. He operated the airline until 1968 when he sold it for $104 million to the Transamerica Corporation.
Later, he made billions buying and selling movie studio MGM. Today his MGM Mirage owns more than half the hotel rooms on the Las Vegas Strip