Armenia’s current and former leaders on Wednesday recalled Kirk Kerkorian’s multimillion-dollar contributions to their country in messages offering their condolences on the death of the Armenian-American billionaire.
President Serzh Sarkisian referred to Kerkorian as a “great Armenian benefactor” who became a living “legend” thanks to his entrepreneurial and philanthropist activities. He singled out more than $220 million in economic assistance which the tycoon’s Lincy Foundation charity has provided to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
“The projects financed by the foundation gave new impetus to Armenia’s economy, significantly changing the face of our country,” Sarkisian wrote in a letter to the family of Kerkorian, who died on Monday night at the age of 98.
Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian similarly praised Kerkorian’s “invaluable role in the development of newly independent Armenia.” Abrahamian said his lavish donations left a “lasting imprint” on his ancestral homeland.
“The Armenian people have lost one of their renowned sons,” read a separate statement by parliament speaker Galust Sahakian.
The bulk of Kerkorian’s aid was spent on the construction and repair of roads, housing, schools and cultural institutions during the 1998-2008 presidency of Sarkisian’s predecessor Robert Kocharian. The latter twice received the tycoon in Yerevan in 1998 and 2005.
“I fondly remember my meetings with Kirk,” Kocharian said in a statement publicized by his unofficial website, 2rd.am. Kerkorian was a “true patriot who will forever remain in the hearts of the Armenians,” he said.
Leaders of the Armenian community in the United States also paid tribute to Kerkorian’s legacy. “He made a huge difference in our homeland with his tremendous generosity. Armenia is on a path to modernization after years of economic stagnation thanks to his support,” said Hirair Hovnanian, the founder of the Armenian Assembly of America, an influential advocacy group.
Kerkorian’s death also prompted a statement by Senator Harry Reid, a longtime friend leading the Democratic minority in the U.S. Senate. “My relationship with him is one of the special things in my life,” Reid said on the Senate floor on Tuesday.
“He was one of a kind,” added the veteran lawmaker representing Nevada, the U.S. state where Kerkorian had for decades done business.
A financial empire built by Kerkorian included some of the biggest and best-known casinos of Las Vegas.