By Emil Danielyan
Kirk Kerkorian, a prominent U.S. billionaire of Armenian descent, announced on Friday that he will donate $60 million to finance more infrastructure projects in Armenia.
Kerkorian’s charity, the Lincy Foundation, said the money will be spent on the renovation of rundown schools and the repair of more highways and major streets in the capital Yerevan.
“The work will commence once the necessary approvals have been obtained and agreements between the Armenian government and The Lincy Foundation have been signed,” the foundation said in a statement. “The Government of Armenia will implement these projects with the assistance of The Lincy Foundation.”
Kerkorian’s decision to continue his multimillion-dollar assistance to Armenia was for months anticipated by the country’s cash-strapped government. It was announced less than two months after the reclusive tycoon’s unexpected visit to Yerevan during which he met President Robert Kocharian and received Armenia’s highest state award from the latter.
Kerkorian also inspected streets in the city center and roads outside it that were rebuilt with his money. He was reportedly satisfied with what he saw.
The Lincy Foundation spent $150 million on those infrastructure projects between 2001 and 2004. Much of the money went to pay for the repair and construction of 430 kilometers of major highways, five bridges, two tunnels as well as 3,674 new apartments in Armenia’s northern regions still reeling from the 1988 earthquake.
In addition, Lincy has contributed $20 million in loans to Armenian businesses as well as half of the funding for the construction in the late 1990s of a road linking Armenia and Karabakh. Kerkorian has thus been Armenia’s single largest Diaspora donor.
Details of the new Kerkorian-funded projects were not immediately made public by Lincy and the government. The “Haykakan Zhamanak” daily reported on Friday that two dozen public schools in Yerevan are due to be repaired by the end of this year.
Kerkorian, 87, is known around the world as the owner of Tracinda Corporation, a Nevada-based investment company. The U.S. “Forbes” magazine estimates his fortune at $8.1 billion. Among his biggest holdings are the MGM-Mirage casino and hotel operator as well as the Mandalay Bay Resorts group.