US automobile magnate Kirk Kerkorian dies

Washington, June 17 (IANS) Billionaire financier Kirk Kerkorkian, who for years tried to gain control of the main US automobile manufacturers, has died in Los Angeles, his investment company, Tracinda Corp., announced. He was 98.

In a communique, Tracinda said that Kerkorian died on Monday night, Efe news agency reported.

He made a name for himself as a result of his investments in Las Vegas during the 1960s and, later, by purchasing the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie studio.

In 1995, Kerkorian teamed up with another well-known US businessman, the former chief of Chrysler, Lee Iacocca, to try and gain control of the US auto manufacturer in a hostile takeover.

But the top executives at Chrysler opposed the plan and Kerkorian sold his stake in the company shortly before it was acquired by the German consortium Daimler-Benz.

After his fiasco with Chrysler, Kerkorian established an interest in the largest US automobile manufacturer, General Motors (GM).

In 2006, three years before the firm’s serious crisis that brought it to the verge of disappearing, Kerkorian acquired about 10 percent of GM’s shares.

In the face of GM’s terrible financial situation, he proposed to Rick Wagoner, its then-general advisor, for the French automaker Renault to acquire some 20 percent of its shares.

After Wagoner’s refusal, Kerkorian divested himself of his own GM shares.

In 2007, he offered to buy the Chrysler Group from Daimler-Benz for more than $4.5 billion, but eventually the German firm decided to accept the offer of Cerberus, which paid some $7.4 billion for the company.

A year later, Kerkorian began to invest in Ford, the second-largest US automaker, which had begun restructuring its operations in anticipation of the serious economic crisis in 2009.

Kerkorian acquired about 6.6 percent of Ford’s stock for some $1 billion and became one of the biggest individual investors in the firm.

But after the dramatic plunge in Ford’s share value, he sold his stake, losing about 50 percent of the money he had originally invested.

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