6:00am PT by Eriq Gardner
The Battle Over MGM Mogul Kirk Kerkorian's $2 Billion Estate
When Kirk Kerkorian died in June 2015 at age 98, the MGM mogul bequeathed the bulk of a massive estate valued at roughly $2 billion to unspecified charitable organizations.
A committee of three individuals — business partner Anthony Mandekic, gastroenterologist and film producer Eric Esrailian and entertainment attorney Patricia Glaser — would have discretion, but pursuant to Kerkorian's wishes, they would have to distribute the money within three years of his death. With the clock ticking, executor Mandekic has been dealing with the fallout from Kerkorian's troubled love life, in which private eye Anthony Pellicano played a prominent role.
In 1999, Kerkorian married former tennis star Lisa Bonder. It was Kerkorian's third marriage, and it lasted a mere month, but Bonder would demand $320,000 a month in child support, which would have represented the largest award in California history. The divorce became nasty when Kerkorian hired Pellicano to investigate Bonder.
For Pellicano's tapping of her phones, Kerkorian's powerful entertainment attorney Terry Christensen later was sentenced to three years in prison. Notoriously, Pellicano also would use discarded dental floss to prove producer Steve Bing — not Kerkorian — was the biological father of Bonder's child, Kira. Ultimately, Bonder had to settle for $100,000 a month in child support. Kira also got a $7 million trust.
When Kira turned 18 in 2016, the distribution of that $7 million was all set to occur when she filed an appeal in the Kerkorian probate case. Ultimately, through a settlement obtained by THR, she was able to bump up her payout to $8.5 million.
That's a drop in the bucket compared with the demand by Kerkorian's fourth wife, Una Davis.
Perhaps looking to avoid another Pellicano-type mess, upon his 2014 marriage to Davis, Kerkorian had her sign a waiver relinquishing rights to receive any money when he died. The billionaire also gave Mandekic $10 million with written instructions to provide to Davis in place of other monetary transfers. According to Mandekic, Davis lasted just 57 days in Kerkorian's home before she was kicked out.
Nonetheless, as the surviving widow, Davis is asserting entitlement to a third of the estate, pointing to the fact that the $10 million agreement was unsigned and alleging that Kerkorian lacked capacity to make decisions at an advanced age and was under undue influence from those who surrounded him. A California appeals court on Jan. 19 held that the executor was within his rights to challenge Davis' demand.
With hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, is there the possibility of another big courtroom showdown over Kerkorian's romantic life? Thanks to charitable interests, California's attorney general is now involved, and nearly three years after Kerkorian's death, a judge soon will decide whether a trial is needed.
This story first appeared in the Feb. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.