Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian's third attempt to influence the U.S. auto industry has apparently failed. Pulling out of Ford completely, Kerkorian may have lost up to $700 million on his investment in that company.
Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, the 41st richest person in the world, has sold off his last shares in Ford Motor Company. Kerkorian had purchased roughly 6% of Ford since April, at a cost of $1 billion.
By October, Kerkorian had taken a 67% loss on the investment. He began selling his shares that month.
Kerkorian has had a tumultuous history with Detroit over the years, including a failed hostile takeover of Chrysler in 1995. His move on Chrysler was backed by former Chrysler Chairman and CEO Lee Iacocca. The 91-year-old Californian also tried to force GM into a merger with Renault and Nissan in 2006. At the time, Kerkorian owned nearly 10% of GM, but sold off the bulk of his shares when GM signaled their unwillingness to join the Renault/Nissan partnership.
Kerkorian built up his fortune through investment in the development of a small airline through the 1950s, and the purchase of land in Las Vegas over the '60s. Through his companies he started the International Hotel, now the Las Vegas Hilton, and the Flamingo Hotel. He later purchased film studio MGM, and created the original MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. He sold off those hotels, and formed MGM Mirage, which now owns six major properties in Vegas alone.
He had been a fan of Ford CEO Alan Mulally, and believed the executive had Ford on the right path. However, rising gas prices and the increasingly dismal U.S. economy meant a change of plan at Ford. Shares in MGM Mirage were also diminishing, as Kerkorian's stake in the entertainment company was part of the collataral on his Ford purchase.
Kerkorian's Tracinda Corporation began selling the first batch of Ford shares on October 21. In an October statement the company said, "in light of current economic and market conditions, it sees unique value in the gaming and hospitality and oil and gas industries and has, therefore, decided to reallocate its resources and to focus on those industries."