A rare Kerkorian sighting


Press-shy billionaire Kirk Kerkorian made a rare public appearance Wednesday in a Los Angeles courtroom to testify in the federal wiretapping trial of his longtime friend, attorney Terry Christensen.

Christensen is accused of hiring Anthony Pellicano, the former private detective to the stars, to illegally wiretap Kerkorian's ex-wife, former tennis pro Lisa Bonder Kerkorian, during a closely watched 2002 child support dispute with Kerkorian.

Kerkorian told the court he did not know Bonder's telephone calls were wiretapped. He said he never even met Pellicano until he saw him at an April 2002 meeting with producer Steve Bing. At the time, Kerkorian was hoping to prove that Bing — not himself — was the father of Bonder's daughter.

"Steve Bing was drinking out of a water bottle," Kerkorian testified. "And after the meeting was over, his lawyer — I believe it was his lawyer — saw me looking at that bottle, and he smiled at me and took the bottle and walked away."

The reason Kerkorian eyed the bottle? DNA evidence. While he missed getting it that time, Kerkorian said he later obtained the DNA — which he said was done through "our own security" — and proved Bing's paternity.

Kerkorian, who was dressed in a blue sports jacket, red tie and loafers, testified for about 30 minutes and effortlessly followed attorneys as they questioned him. He paused once to say his poor eyesight made it hard to see documents in front of him.

If shareholders in the casino company he controls, MGM Mirage, or anyone following his activist investing in Ford Motor Co. thought Kerkorian might be less focused at 91, it didn't appear that way in court. He stood upright when walking and looked spry and alert while giving his testimony.

Asked about his background after his swearing-in, Kerkorian said his schooling ended in seventh grade and that he became a pilot and started his own airline. He left out the fact that Forbes magazine last year estimated his fortune at $18 billion.