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The Gambler

How Penniless Dropout Kirk Kerkorian Became the Greatest Deal Maker in Capitalist History
Narrated by: Fred Sanders
Length: 13 hrs and 3 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)
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Summary

The rags-to-riches story of one of America's wealthiest and least-known financial giants, self-made billionaire Kirk Kerkorian - the daring aviator, movie mogul, risk taker, and business tycoon who transformed Las Vegas and Hollywood to become one of the leading financiers in American business.

Kerkorian combined the courage of a World War II pilot, the fortitude of a scrappy boxer, the cunning of an inscrutable poker player, and an unmatched genius for making deals. He never put his name on a building, but when he died, he owned almost every major hotel and casino in Las Vegas. He envisioned and fostered a new industry - the leisure business. Three times he built the biggest resort hotel in the world. Three times he bought and sold the fabled MGM Studios, forever changing the way Hollywood does business.

His early life began as far as possible from a place on the Forbes List of Billionaires when he and his Armenian immigrant family lost their farm to foreclosure. He was four. They arrived in Los Angeles penniless and moved often, staying one step ahead of more evictions. Young Kirk learned English on the streets of LA, made pennies hawking newspapers, and dropped out after eighth grade. How he went on to become one of the richest and most generous men in America - his net worth as much as $20 billion - is a story largely unknown to the world. That's because what Kerkorian valued most was his privacy. His very private life turned to tabloid fodder late in life when a former professional tennis player falsely claimed that the 85-year-old billionaire fathered her child.

In this engrossing biography, investigative reporter William C. Rempel digs deep into Kerkorian's long-guarded history to introduce a man of contradictions - a poorly educated genius for deal-making, an extraordinarily shy man who made the boldest of business ventures, a careful and calculating investor who was willing to bet everything on a single roll of the dice.

Unlike others of his status and importance, Kerkorian made few public appearances and strenuously avoided personal publicity. His friends and associates, however, were some of the biggest names in business, entertainment, and sports - among them Howard Hughes, Ted Turner, Steve Wynn, Michael Milken, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley, Mike Tyson, and Andre Agassi.

When he died in 2015, two years shy of the century mark, Kerkorian had outlived many of his closest friends and associates. Now, Rempel meticulously pieces together revealing fragments of Kerkorian's life, collected from diverse sources - war records, business archives, court documents, news clippings, and the recollections and recorded memories of longtime pals and relatives. In The Gambler, Rempel illuminates this unknown, self-made man and his inspiring legacy as never before.

©2017 William C. Rempel (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jean
  • 04-02-18

An Engrossing Biography

William C. Rempel was an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He has written the biography of Kirk Kerkorian (1917-2015). The author covers Kerkorian’s life from boyhood to death. The book is full of all types of celebrities from business to sports. Rempel states that Kerkorian was a big-time gambler in casinos, business and life.

The book is well written and researched. The writing is in the style of a journalist. While researching this book, Rempel interviewed many people and worked these interviews into the book. I enjoyed reading this book. The style of writing and the narration made it an easy listen.

The book is thirteen hours. Fred Sanders does a good job narrating the book. Sanders is an actor and audiobook narrator. This is the first time I have read a book by Rempel or listened to Sanders.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Philo
  • 15-01-19

One for the ages

It was a time of extravagant possibilities, for an imaginative, scrappy opportunist. Kirk Kerkorian, of an immigrant family, learning English as a second language, started near the bottom of the scale, but with a strong family culture as a tail-wind. He got into a strong climb and never stop climbing. The image of a tail-wind is fitting, as he struggled up to flight lessons doing farm work for his resourceful woman flight teacher. (The strong women in the story include his sister who he revered and partnered with after World War 2.) Soon he was flying fighter-bombers across the north Atlantic from Canada to Britain. This guy kept groping around for the next leg up and never stopped. The USA's 20th century provides an amazing backdrop for this. This story is all action, but it progresses, like Kirk's life, to ever higher and more refined levels -- from struggling with a balky plane out over freezing seas, on into dealmaking, first trading one plane at a time, then on to ever-bigger deals. The details of the deals are brisk and flow very well. (Yes, I would like them fleshed out more. But the story moves well.) The narration is ideal. The 20th century west was still vast and open for business. He managed to ride every wind and every tide (not without his mistakes and personal quirks, which are adequately shown here. For example, he bought into the ill-fated Dunes casino just before it flopped: he was late to that party and perhaps careless with the due diligence. But he learned from that). Yet for all this, he was a pretty shy and private guy who could barely bring himself to speak in front of people. What a mix, what a guy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Zahid Jafry
  • 12-06-18

Not enough detail on his business life

I was disappointed by this book. There were too many anecdotes of what a great guy he was (deservedly, I'm sure) and not enough insights on to how he built his fortune. It was unnecessarily unkind to a woman in his life. It might be true, but did I really need to know all about it? What challenges did he face professionally? How did he go about raising the money for his acquisitions (with no personal credit history of his own, no less)? Mr. Kerkorian would have shone through as an incredible individual without the author having to be so sycophantic. It seemed he really cared about preserving the relationships with those in Mr. Kerkorian's vast network and less about sharing his actual story.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • James Salter
  • 12-05-18

Fantastic!

Must read/ listen! amazing story I didn't want it to end! Kirk was defiantly an amazing man

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrew C. Sturm
  • 14-11-18

Roll the Dice on this Biography

This book is definitely worth a roll of the dice. So many times when listening to this book I stopped the playback, shook my head and muttered, No way. His life reads like a Hollywood movie, of which he helped make a bunch of. It was also fascinating to hear about the rise of Las Vegas from the eyes of a man who did more than almost anyone to make it what it is today. #WhataLife #Inspiring #Tagsgiving #Sweepstakes

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-11-18

Great book

Excellent excellent book ! Very interesting and never knew how great a business man he was .

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  • Justin & Lindsay
  • 13-09-18

Such a great book

I can't believe I have never heard of this man what a great book on deal making and a wild life

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  • Patrick D Holman
  • 09-09-18

what an amazing person

this was an incredible read about one of the most influential businessmen in the world. the story is fantastic. highly recommend

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  • Timothy McCarthy
  • 14-08-18

Boring and reads like a KK fanboy piece

Narrator style is monotonous and boring. Author just stumbling over himself to offer praise upon praise for KK.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 23-07-18

A Great Book

One of the best books I have read in years. This biography is a real lesson of life and success.