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tv   William Rempel The Gambler  CSPAN  February 24, 2018 11:00am-12:01pm EST

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i'm grateful to my parents but i was not raised to think that so when i decided i wanted to the college i was 16 it felt like something i could do, not because i had formal education but okay, i need to learn algebra i will buy a book and i will earn it. i didn't do an amazing job but i barely got into university but i kept going with that and yeah, my parents took it too far. i arrived at the university really underprepared and i want to raise my hand in class and asked what the holocaust was. i never heard of it. people thought i was in denying and i wasn't, i never heard of it before. ...
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i was looking for a book on kerkorian kirk because he is so inspirational and there wasn't much out there, and i saw there was preorder for your book that was coming out and i was thrilled. that's what started the process that led us here today. i think this is an important book, both for armenians and nonarmenians and shows an inspirational story of somebody who started from nothing and pennyless, as you said, and i think had a tremendous impact over many people's lives. so we are excited for you to be here. bill spend over 36 years as an investigative reporter for "the los angeles times." he has reported he he columbian drug lords and his book, "at the devil's table" and that book became a tell la -- telanovella and it was the basis of narcoanother netflix.
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bill as investigated a number of other major stories in his career, including the exxon valdez oil spoil, the corrupt federal unanimous --ford unanimous marcos regime and a.l. quite. i think kerkorian's success shows that no matter where you start in life in the united states, anything is possible. so i really loved reading the book. i read it in three days. he encourage you to buy a copy today. a portion of the proceed goes to the library. let's think laura as well. [applause] so, bill is going to -- the plan is bill will make some -- make a presentation, i'll do a moderate he q & a with hem and then to
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keep it cleaner there are questions cards. so if you have a question after the relatively 20-25 minute session we'll ask questions that they audience put and thankful that c-span is here today for those who were not able to make it. bill you will be signing some copies today. so, thank you so much. with that, let's have bill come up to the stage. [applause] >> thank you for the invitation to pea hear today. always fun to talk about kerkorian kirk. i del you how the project began, because it wasn't because i knew kirk. i didn't know kirk at all. he was a name in the business pages of "the los angeles times"
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as far as i was concerned. i know every armenian here knows kirk better than i knew him, the day i got a call from my publisher. she just raid the obituary in "the new york times," and she was flabbergasted. this is a veteran book publisher in new york, to find out that this incredible life that she read bat in the the obituary was swan she never heard of, and so she wanted to know if there was a book in this man's life, and the reason she had never heard of him is that's the way kirk wanted it. he was very private man, who wanted not to be -- he not a celebrity businessman. he wanted anonymity if anything
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and if he had all the money in the world, which he came close to would he have paid it to be anonymous. he wanted to go to movie theaters and stand in line and wait for a movie like the rest of us, even though he owned mgm studios. he wanted to be able to jog on the street of beverly hills, even though he lived in a secluded place. he wanted to be able to have the life of an ordinary american. a little more background. once i got the phone call from the editor asking me to look interest this man's life, one of the first people i contacted -- well in fact he was the first person i contactedded -- was an armenian,, haroot, who i know is here somebody there he is.
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haroot -- kirk was 98 when he died. he outlived his family, outlived his most of his friends. and he was private so he didn't leave a trail of public records. there were some but he did not sit and talk about himself. so, fortunately for me and for the book and for the readers, haroot invited me to sit down women if and that was the beginning of my research into kirk's life. sos, thank you, haroot, again. [applause] >> but what i discovered in starting this research was that kirk's and mine had some interesting similarities. my family came to america -- i am the son of an immigrant, just as kirk was. beth of our fathers started out as farmers in fresno.
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both of our fathers came over to this country as immigrant refugees. my case, my dad came on a ship in the 1920s, and there were two babies on the ship, a ship of refugees, and two babies, one was rempel, my dad be and the other one was -- is the family was part of the largest contingent on the boat of -- mose e mostly armenians on this refugee ship, which because of that and because rempel and armenians were in the same bolt i considered miss something of a cousin of armenians anyway. [applause] >> thank you.
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so, turns out that kirk's father, the immigrant, and my father, the immigrant, were also -- arrived without any skills. they were farmers, and they were budding entrepreneurs. kirk's father was -- arrived illiterate and unskilled but he had incredibly big dreams of making his millions, and he turned farming into a business. he went out and bought a lot of farms and got completely overextended with loans and ended up being -- getting into trouble for were with too many debts. he was chasing the american dream. my dad was also an entrepreneur who chased the american dream
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and unfortunately for both of us, our fathers' luck tended to be on the bad side. so kirk's experience with that was he was a mere five-six-year-old when the family farm was -- evicted from the family farm near bakersfield and that's when kirk was moved to the big city of los angeles and began -- had to learn english in school, was -- and continued to move constantly because they couldn't afford the rent. get enough together to move into a house, and then the rent would -- didn't have enough to pay the second month. so, they were always moving and just a step ahead of the landlord's eviction notice. so, he was always the new kid in school, and so he suffered from being behind in his studies, being shy and a new kid and then
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of course he had to deal with bullies and such as -- because of being the new kid. so, this really difficult beginning for him made an impact on his life that would be part of the kirk kerkorian that everyone would come to know in the future, and that was that he -- that sort of beginnings with failure and difficulty and insecurity actually taught him many things. first, he learned to work. even as a boy, he had to get out and sell newspapers and turn the pennies he made over to the family. it was a source of -- became an important source of income generation. he -- a little later he was -- actually lied about his age to
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make himself appear old sore he could get a job working for the ccc, which in the depression, which was where he had to go -- he and a friend of his went up to sequoia national park and dug up trails and made trails and chopped brush and did all the heavy labor for approximately $25 a month. most of which was sent back to his family. but this sort of beginning with all the difficulties was also a time when he learned that things weren't as important as other -- as family, and the loyalty of friends. so his was -- this where is he learn what values matter, and what was interesting as i traced his life, after -- through business, was that these kinds of values kept showing up in
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business. this is a man whose handshake was a contract. a man who when he made a promise to a bank, it was a promise he kept. and that he learned that loyalty was something you didn't demand. it was something you earned. there was a -- one of the ceos he hired years later explained that the loyalty he -- that kirk -- the loyalty he commanded of his people was earned because he said kirk always took the risks and he always shared the credit. that's a -- seems like a small this but when you work for someone who is taking all those risks and giving you -- sharing the credit with you, it's a powerful incentive to be loyal
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and to work harder. one of the things that the difficult life also gave him was a certain comfort with payoffs and risk, and he didn't have things. one thing happens when you move a lot -- i had a similar kind of background -- you don't accumulate things. you're moving all the time. you know -- you learn to rely on family and friends as your treasures. you don't put them in your pocket. so, for kirk, this sort of lack of things made him really comfortable with not having things, and he was a very modest man. he-even when he was a
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billionaire he was driving a ford taurus and a jeep cherokee. he wasn't in the limousines and mercedes. he was a man of modest taste, but the -- some of that comfort with risk also shows up in his gambling and in his investments. and kirk said that there were two things -- that the greatest thrill in life was taking a big -- was oning a big bet, and the second biggest thrill was losing a big bet. the thrill of risk was part of him, and so he could actually face a big showdown, a big wager, whether it's on a casino or in -- on wall street, and
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relish the uncertainty of it and i think this always goes back to his childhood, a childhood where what is the worst that can happen? you're going to have nothing again. in fact at one point, late in his life, he confidessed to a friend that he -- wouldn'ted by nice to just luce it all right now and start over? he loved what he did, how it went. now there came a time when it came close to happening but that's another -- but that attitude was part of kirk. he was very competitive. that was part of also goes back to the scrappy life that he had to adapt to as a young man in a difficult financial situation. he took on the bullies and the
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new kid in school. there's a story that -- about one of the bullies, some bully -- one of the new schools where the bully beat kirk up after school one day, and so that does kirk do? the next day he comes back and challenges the same bully and gets beat up again. and so the third day, kirk comes back and challenges the bully again, and gets beat up again. but each time he notices the bully is losing some of his enthusiasm for the fight. and eventually they have a -- come to a draw and go off and become good friends. and that's, again, kirk. in business, business was a fight sometimes, a battle, a scrap but it was business. it wasn't personal. and kirk would come away from these battle -- even the ones where the negotiations were
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very, very difficult, and he and the guy on the -- across the table would be dining and winding both and be good friends. kirk did not carry grudges, unlike some other billionaires we might know about, with famous addresses. kirk didn't carry grudges. kirk didn't like to fire people. kirk was a man who never defaulted on a loan. kirk was shy and humble. kirk insisted his name not be on anything. in the skyline of las vegas, that he completely redesigned by virtue of his investments and building, you won't find a kerkorian hotel, you won't find a cushing street, you won't find
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a -- anything -- won't find a parking spot with his name on. i as a okayed, that scrappiness, competitive spirit showed up when he decided to take up boxing, and rather talented young boxer. in fact, he got a nickname after his second or third fight, rifle right kerkorian. rifle right is one of his greater treasures to earn a nickname in the ring was a great -- gave him great joy. but you may have seen some pictures up here of rifle right. but that scrappiness also came to be -- something that somebody on the outside like us could look at it and see as also
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courage, and one of the most remarkable thing is discovered early in my research of kirk was his war record. i'd never heard of the royal air force ferry command, which was a unit that -- of mostly american and canadian pilots who operated out of canada during the war, world war ii, and ferrying fresh out of the factory fighters and bombers from canada over the north atlantic to scotland, mostly to scotland in those days. so they were taking the polar route before the polar route was a route. it didn't have any navigational equipment along the way so they had to fly by night to navigate by the stars. now, kirk, in school, was a smart enough kid but he --
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because he moved all the time, he was always behind because he was learning english even in school. some of his math -- he hate math. he hated math and he heated geographyy, so here he is flying over the ocean, navigating by the stars with the skill -- where his mathematical skills were his life. this wasn't math as a concept. it was math -- or theory. it was math as life and death. see adapted very well. but the -- this ferry command was -- a couple of thousand -- two or three thousand pilots during the course of the war, and it was so treacherous because the equipment was potentially fatty, the route faulty, the route had severe weather, little ice on the wings of a fighter bomber could bring
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it down without a trace. and 500 of the pilots who served on the ferry command disappeared, died in crashes or most of them, frankly, just disappeared because their equipment didn't make it across the atlantic. kirk's good fortune was somewhat -- some luck no doubt but also his skill and his daring. he took the most dangerous planes. in fact i think the record was -- would show he took more of the dangerous planes than anyone else. but this, again, is his -- taking a gamble but the took a gamble with -- he was his own chips on the table here. but he also -- this was also part of the gambling instinct he carried over after the war. he did play a lot of poker with the other pilots, and was -- it
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was, according to legend, his porker face was the top poker face, the most inscrutable poke are face in all of the raf. later in the casinos, his favorite gambling was on the craps table and people couldn't tell whether he was win organize losing because he had the same expression. this called him the perry como of the craps table. if was a very cool crooner. kirk was aer very could gambler. after the -- very cool gambler. after the war, kirk came back with cash in his pocket because he was a pilot and he immediately invested the money in his first business, which was a little aviation school no
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montebello, but it didn't last very long because it wasn't exciting enough for him so he put together a little more money, got a loan, made a -- got a banker to trust him with a handshake, at the beginning of a very good relationship with the bank of america, as it turns out, and with his sister's help put together enough money to buy a little charter airline called los angeles air service. so, he started flying charter services to -- mostly to las vegas, with the likes of bugsy siegel as a passenger, and he flu john wayne around looking for places to shoot movies in the arizona desert. so he was having a good time. he also was going to las vegas a lot. but the turn this little airline into a business. it lasted 20 years. nurtured it into making a good
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living, but he made his first fortune when he took that little airline and took it public, after -- so after 20 years of running a little small business, he was an overnight success. just took 20 years. and what he did was take it public by issuing stock, doing what we call an -- i think it's an ipo, a public offering, and this business move with the stock was moving slowly. it didn't jump off and didn't make a quick buck from this. it was moving slowly until the armenian community of fresno heard about it and the farmers in fresno and vineyard owners started investing in kirk's business, and all of a sudden the stock shot up, and in fact it shot up so much that he made -- it was his first fortune was a $60 million public
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offering that also turned all these armenian farmers into wealthier people because they all participated in the profits. but he always considered that the armenian -- his armenian connection was the source of his wealth, and both in a emotional way and also in a financial way. then soon after that the transamerica company, a big financial outfit, decided they wanted to buy it outright, and so kirk took home -- put in his pocket in a short span of time something in the neighborhood of 150 to $200 million. now, being a gambler, he immediately put that money at risk again. this is when he bought western airlines, mgm, and started building the biggest hotel in the world, in las vegas, the hotel he had the my to start the
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building but not enough to finish it. so, he was -- every one of these investments was a risky one. which was always theocrasy with kirk. always a risk. his idea of a risk was that it have some calculated -- be a calculated risk so he was always looking for some back door, some way out of the riskiest aspects, but you have to read the book to see how it all came out. but what i want you to know about kirk before we do the q & a, is that he was very different from any of our more famous billionaires. i -- some of that made this project, this book, more difficult. his privacy meant that i was trying to learn about a man who didn't talk about himself.
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that is a huge inconvenience for a researcher, let me tell you. that's one of the reasons why h after've are tv's help -- harut's help was -- and others cribbed to my understanding of who he is, otherwise i still wouldn't know as much as the rest of you. but his -- one of the parts of him that i haven't talk about is his generosity, and that happens to be part of him that, again, armenians know better than most. again, harut was a major player in this. the airlift to armenia after the earthquake. that ended up being a source of support for armenia that spanned 20 years. made him one of the country's 15
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official national heroes. so the prospect of someone who is just a cousin of armenian, me and cousin kirk, being the writer, is especially -- i'm especially plead by it, that after all this time with are meanans knowing who he is but the rest of us clueless, is now at least -- kirk's now being shared with a broader audience and a wider bunch of americans, and i can't be -- couldn't be more delighted to be the -- a vehicle for sharing him and i'm grateful for the -- to all the armenians for sharing him with me. i'm also grateful for the armenians who have been buying this book like crazy.
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we have only been out now three weeks, and we're already in the third printing and it's a best seller. so thank you. [applause] >> we can do the q & a and i love telling stories so i have a million of them. thank you. [applause] >> if you have questions, please raise your hand, if you filled out the card we'll have somebody collect them. that's how we'll do the audience q & a. any questions? well issue think did you fill out a card? katherine will check them.
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so, bill, maybe we can just start -- you alluded to this at the enbut how private kirk was and how he valued that privacy. it's difficult four you a researcher, obviously, and an introduction over the book, the kerkorian's chief legal adviser said no one will help you. so, you obviously were not discouraged because you got here today. maybe walk us through the journey, the highlights, low loathes, those things. >> well in my experience as a journalist, i have to say that whenever someone says i can't have something, it works the opposite. and that was the case here. what i did not expect going into this project, it would evolve more like an investigative project than a standard feature. but turns out when you start looking for details, they're out
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there. kirk had actually done a didn't an oral history, recorded an oral history in las vegas. it was on tape in the library at unlv, and he had done it years ago, and just wasn't advertised anywhere. we found it and it was a treasure, and i actually got to sit there and listen to that rich baritone voice of his, telling stories about his life and background and business, and so i wish i had been the interviewer on the other end of it, but what was there was wonderful. the ferry command was the subject of a documentary done by pbs in boston, and the producer of that, whose father was one of the pilots, provided me with the
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outtakes of the whole interview, so i was able to give more detail -- kirk was interviewed for that, and provided background. so, then there were a lot of people close to kirk who wanted -- who so treasured his legacy that they wanted to share it. it was -- the people that -- his lawyer and the people in the estate, running the estate, had spent their lives and careers protecting his privacy and they just couldn't quite get out of that mold, but most of the people that knew him were so devoted and so grateful for what he was and what he did, that they wanted to share it. the sharing was sharing -- keeping him alive, and i think that's a fact. the book and the picture on the wall here, this is a way to keep kirk's legacy alive and to keep
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the lessons of humility and integrity and expand them and show them to the world. so i'm delighted by the success of the project, but the success began because so many people helped me. >> i think we have a question. olivia will collect it. many of us here in los angeles, a quick trip to las vegas so we good there often. one thing that was striking about the book was i had no idea how many different property head talk. city center, mgm grand, the mirage, so many properties. if we went to vegas with you today, when you look at the skyline, what too you think his legacy is on las vegas? >> well, modern las vegas is kirk's invention. he is the one that recognize -- the first to recognize the place was big enough for this giant
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hotel ask kinds and it was a place for families as well as partiers, and kirk in fact called -- when someone asked him why are you buying hotels and movie studios and casinos, he said these were all part of what he called the leisure industry. after the war, after world war ii, he saw this as the economy was changing, people would have more time, that this would be a -- that the development of las vegas would be part of the -- would benefit from the spending money that would be flowing and that people would be -- have time go there. so, that's why he built -- when he built the biggest hotel in the world in las vegas, his first time out, the international hotel, it was -- there was another billionaire in
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town -- kirk was not yet a billionaire. he was a hundred tread millionaire, but it was all at risk, and the other guy was named howard hughes, and howard hughes, kirk thought was one of his friends. they had similar interests as aviators and movie owners and rich men, but howard was secretly working against kirk to -- because howard said -- told his people, las vegas isn't big enough for two of us. kirk had the opposite view. he felt like the best thing that could happen in las vegas was for everybody to compete. again, here's this competitive boxer, tennis player, and businessman, who wanted competition. he wanted the best hotel next to his to be bill across the street so they would both be drawing
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people. kirk relished competition and he relished a good fight. he relished anyone having a -- dealings with anyone who had good ideas and big ideas. he was -- he never changed. he bought the mirage property from steve wynn years later, and his business advisers and lawyers all wanted him to include a no competition clause in the deal with steve wynn. kirk wouldn't do it. he said the best thing that can happen is steve wynn would bill a hotel across the street from us, which he did and everybody benefited. las vegas is a success because of big ideas and big ideas from kirk and steve wynn and howard sures, but i think in the case of kirk, it was -- he was the real masterminds. >> you talk about the mgm grand
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fire and you said that was originally his baby, 87 people died. i think at the time the second worst hotel fire. maybe talk about his reaction to that. he was in new york at the time, i think, on another business deal. something that really captures what kerkorian's business ethics were like in one story. >> the mgm fire at the first mgm, which was now called -- now the bali -- but the fire aftermath, kirk didn't want to have the insurance adjusting take forever. he wanted to move quickly to help the victims and the families to recover as best they could. and so he ended up being
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impatient with the insurance companies and they weren't paying off -- weren't settling the claims fast enough so kirk sent his people to settle the claims, and he said, these people who are victimized are -- these were our customers. these are our family. we're not their enemy. we're on their side. and so he wanted them made whole to the extend that it could be done with money, and his -- so his lawyers and advisers went out and settle these claims faster and more generously than the insurance companies were willing to do. so after that, the insurance companies refused to pay off their claims to kirk. so kirk sued the insurance companies but he did this first of all by taking -- making sure
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the victims were all taken care of and then he assumed the risk of the litigation to recover it from the insurance companies. now, he did think that in a courtroom, having a lawyer for the insurance companies claim -- assert to a jury that kirk paid too much too fast to victims, he had a certain edge, and he played that -- played those cards right to the end and the insurance companies folded. but it's a tribute to kirk that he would take the risk and the trouble to make sure that the people who needed it most were taken care of, and that the big, bad insurance companies had to deal with him. >> one of my favorite stories. you mentioned the book already been on its third print. there's been a lot of demand for it. part of that is many armenians
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considered him a hero. talk about his relationship how he saw his armenian heritage and go from there. >> well, kirk was definitely a proud armenian. i would say he was -- what concerned him sometimes was that the a lot of factions amongst armenians, different groups, and sometimes they don't get along as well as -- but after the earthquake, kirk was -- by stepping in and helping to set up the airlift -- this is an airlift, by the way that, rivals the berlin airlift the government ran. this was run by kirk and people like harut and alex and the different groups of charities,
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armenian charities that banded together. what gave kirk the greatest satisfaction was they all worked together and this he felt was a serious accomplishment and he didn't take credit for that because he wouldn't do that. he was too modest. he would say it because all harut and alex and them it and was very important what they did, but kirk was the catalyst and proud to be an armenian. h -- the first time that kirk went to armenia it and was very emotional trip for him, and i recommend that chapter, too. >> it also seemed -- you mentioned armenian earthquake number 1988. seems like that was catalyst, at least in the become, for setting the stage for his fall an
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philanthropist in the later part of his life. how did he view philanthropyiy. >> prior to the earthquake, kirk was an extremely generous fin -- philanthropist but people daytona know it. people have to be hole enough to remember the tv show called "the millionaire." every week the secret millionaire gave a million to somebody. on the condition that they never explain where the money came from. never credit the giver. kirk was like that. he gave generously everywhere, and -- but with the caveat, you can't tell anybody i gave this to you, otherwise you'll never get another dime. so, even after the earthquake,
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before the airlift began, kirk gave money to armenian causes -- to armenian groups that were helping with the earthquake recovery, but it was with the same caveat, don't tell anybody. but then he took some heat in the media for not stepping up and helping, and that's when he formed the lincy foundation. i think he realized he had to have a formal way to assist and lincy foundation ended up being -- giving away more than a billion dollars over the next 20 years. that's somewhere like a billion to a billion and a half and much of that win to armenia. not all but much of it. he became a -- the records have become public documents, and so that was different. but it just continued a pattern that he had always been
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generous. >> one of the amazing thing about the book is talking not personal relationshipped he built and he wasser private but always around famous people and a lot of cases actor cary grant was a best friend. loyal to the agassi family, even when andre was very young. how did the friendships develop over time? >> well, as i said, kirk valued loyal friends as treasures, and he showed it in many ways. andre aggies are dad, manny, or mike, depending on what part of his life -- but mike agassi so this moment is a -- loves kirk, and kirk -- they met when
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mike agassi was a waiter in las vegas, but they had common interest in boxing and tennis, and mike agassi, who taught andre how to play tennis, gave kirk some early lessons, so i they became good friends and some of that friendship is monitored through the story in the book, but mike agassi was working at the mgm grand when the fire -- he was an employee of the hotel when the fire came, and was out of work. kirk privately delivered his paycheck every month, had the vice president of finance deliver the -- mike's monthly salary to his door so that he was taken care of until the hotel re-opened. so, the loyalty worked both ways. mike was loyal to kirk and kirk
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was loyal to mike and it's little known that andre agassi's middle name is kirk. andre kirk agassi is the most famous of -- one of hoe most famous tennis players in the world, and kirk, his middle name wasn't an accident. that's symbol of love and friendship. >> so we have a couple questions from the audience about his relationship with his family. i think in the introduction you said you did not enter interview the family because maybe talk about relationship between him and his kids, his spouses are probably too complex to get into and that's a lot in the book and you do a great job of covering that but maybe the basic family items. >> kirk's family -- kirk was married four times, but his second wife, they were married for almost 30 years, and together they had a daughter and then adopted another daughter,
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who grew up together as sisters. by all conditions kirk was not a particularly -- he was an old-fashioned father, bit of more aloof than -- but they went on family trip us. in fact they -- he win horseback riding with his daughters in palm springs, and in las vegas. they went on christmas -- cruises to alaska, couple of times, with cary grant and his kids and daughter, so family vacations together with cary grant sounds pretty cool. but kirk was -- wasn't known as a family man so much, but he was -- he took care of them and to this day, when he set up quite healthy trust funds for his still living first -- second
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wife and for the daughters. , yes, his mat trimoanal d -- matrimonial history, i cover it in book. >> you talk about the major risks he took during his career but start from zero and one point he was worth 18 billion, on the forbes list. he was obviously making smart decisions. >> he made calculated risks and always valued having some kind of backup plan. he was big on plan b and c. so, it was part of why he could be so at ease if things weren't going quite right.
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but he had a hard time losing. the chrysler deal where the tried to take over chrysler, he wanted -- along with lee iacocca he wanted to take chrysler private, and he had the money to do it, but it was resisted by the chrysler management to his surprise, i might say. after fighting for that deal for over several months, he -- kirk finally had to surrender and concede defeat, and in conceding defeat, he put in his pocket something like $2.7 billion in profit. so, this is a bet he lost and pocketed nearly $3 billion. now, the fact is, had that deal worked better, had work out, he probably would have made more
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like $6 billion or $7 billion profit, but even a setback -- because he plotted them -- it was a plan. i don't know what the secret is. if i knew i would be doing it. i wouldn't be sitting here. >> if armenians keep buying your book, you might end up on the forbes list. obviously so many stories that are in the book. when you think about what surprises you the most on some of those? the ted turner story was famous, pretty memorable what did you like the most. >> well, as the author, i love every little anecdote. it may just be a couple of lines but i love it because i know it. well, one of my favorite stories in the book was where he tried to lose a million dollars at
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craps table just to give a gift of generosity -- sort of a opening night gift to the larry tish, who opened a new casino in the south of france, and kirk went over just to sluice some money because that's what fellow casino owners do. it's an act of generosity. it's a house warming gift. and so kirk's idea was to -- i'm going to give him a million dollars, but the way he wanted to do it was in a bet. so, he had to ask permission because it was way past any limit that they wanted to absorb but they gave him an orange chip, just for that moment. the orange chip would be worth $1 million for purpose of the bet, and he wanted to put it on one roll at the craps table. one roll, win or lose, and kirk
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went around to all the table, four tables. he watched the action at each one and decided that this table over here issue thick it was table number three or -- i don't know -- it's in the book. and he decided to do it at that table over there because it had the big crowd around. everybody was having a great time. hooping and hollering, and it was a woman rolling the dice what was really hot and i mean that as the dice were hot. and so kirk decided he is going to put that orange chip on this roll, and so she throws it one more time and it -- the dice bounce all over the place, hitting the rubber, the bumpers and the felt some spinning and when it stops, she hit 7 and that's craps, and he won. so, again, kirk's trying to -- chick's trying to lose a million
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dollars, and he wins a million dollars. he kept it, by the way. that's just the way the dice roll. so, we. >> we got a question i was curious about. the possibly a screen adaptation of the book? [applause] >> i'm-i think the story of kerkorian kirk kerkorian is a wonderful story and i hope you fine cinematic, but the adventures in the military, in the air, the adventures in business, the even the adventures with women, it's a story that reveals character all the way through, and i think it is such a inspiring story, was
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to me, and -- that i hope it gets wider and wider sharing. here's to it. fingers crossed. >> maybe we'll end on this note. the books are black and do some signing as well, and i highly encourage you to pick up a copy. loved the book, very fun read. obviously you developed a type of -- you never met kirk, you developed a type of relationship with him studying him two years. what did you think of him at the end of this? how did that change over time? i just would be curious how you think bit him today versus when you started, which obviously you didn't know as much about him then. >> well, as i said, what struck me is how inspiring his story is. it's the -- the rags to riches is only part of it. rags to riches is thrilling. it's an amazing story, but the
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way he did it, he did it by keeping his word. there's another story that -- how did this go. this demonstrates, i think, captures kirk's ethic in a way that mattered to me. he was selling the desert inn. he bought the desert inn after howard house died. he was selling it -- i forgot what year but alex was his many business associate, and alex was in charge of taking some -- a bid on the desert inn from different suitors, and one suitor that came up with the best deal was a japanese investment group, and they worked out a deal, and agreed to
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it -- a dollar amount and terms, and alex was very happy, very proud of the result. it was an amount that kirk would approve. anyway, kirk on the phone have celebrated this turn, until the next day when another outfit shows up all of a sudden unannounced and offers something twice as good. now, alex being -- he wasn't sure of himself at this point. he thought he better call kirk and let him know that we got a much better deal now, what do we do about it? and he called and kirk says, well, did you agree to the terms? and alex said, well, yeah, i did. then why are you calling me?
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and he hung up on him. this is a man who would turn down a double offer because they'd already promised it. and what can you say about that but wow. >> so bill, on behalf of our organization and the library, thank you so much for writing this book and fantastic read. >> thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> here a look at author
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featured on "after words": >> a lot of people seem to have really taken to heart this idea that to learn something, you have to have a degree and you have to have a whole institution in place to teach it to you. i'm grateful to my parents i was
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not raised to believe that. when i went to college when i was 16, it felt like somebody i could do, i need to learn algebra. i'll buy a book and learn it. my parents took it too far. i arrived at university underprepared and i once raised my hand in a class and asked what he holocaust was. and people thought i was denying it. i wouldn't say this is the ideal education but i think they had something there about people feeling ownership over what they learn, because if you think of education, i think a lot of people talk about education as a way to make money and get a better job. it's about making a person, not about making money. i think everyone should have that opportunity to participate in the making of their own mind and i just think it needs to be a more active -- people need to
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be more involved in their own education. >> "after words" airs on booktv every saturday at 10:00 p.m. eastern, and sunday at 9:00 p.m. eastern and pacific time. all previous shows are available to watch online on our web site, booktv.org. ...

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