Kirk Kerkorian, the quiet, legendary billionaire investor who made his riches building Las Vegas and Hollywood, as well as holding large stakes in the US auto industry, has died at the age of 98.

"Personally, he was a friend and a coach, who taught me the importance of looking forward, and to look back only to understand how things could be done better," said Jim Murren, chief executive of MGM Resorts International.

Kerkorian was made the first director emeritus in the company's history in 2011. In 1973 he opened the original MGM Grand Hotel — a $107 million (£68.4m, €95.2m) mega-resort — which later became Bally's. At the time it was the largest hotel in the world.

Kerkorian's "brilliant business insight" allowed him, Murren said, "to become one of the most reputable and influential financiers of our time". In 2015 he was 393rd on Forbes' list of the world's wealthiest people and scored a 10 on the magazine's self-made score. His net worth was estimated at $4.2bn.

When he first visited Las Vegas in 1945 as a Cessna pilot, Kerkorian saw the area's potential.

He truly rose from poverty to build an empire. Born in Fresno, California, in 1917, Kerkorian's father, an Armenian immigrant farmer, eventually lost his land in the Great Depression. Kerkorian never made it to high school.

His turned to business after the Second World War when he saw opportunity as a pilot flying gamblers in and out of the desert city. In 1947 he bought charter service Trans International Airlines for $60,000.

Soon he was into property and throughout the 1960s bought up land that would become the Las Vegas strip. He helped build the city from a backwater into the tourist destination it is today. Famous casinos like Caesars Palace, The International and the Bellagio all bear his fingerprints.

In 1969 Kerkorian purchased filmmaker Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and began to build what would become MGM Resorts International.

In the 1990s he set his sights on the US auto industry and tried to take over Chrysler Corporation in 1995 only to be thwarted. He tried again in 2007 with a $4.58 billion bid for Chrysler Group, but he was outbid by Cerberus Capital Management.

He also owned large stakes in General Motors and Ford Motor Company, but the industry was not as good to him and he eventually sold off his shares.

On 30 November 2006 Kerkorian's investment corporation Tracinda sold off 14 million shares of GM, cutting his investment in the company in half. By the end of the year he had sold them all. In the next four years the carmaker lost 90% of its value. In 2008 he sold 7.3 million Ford shares for roughly $17.7m after losing nearly half a billion dollars in his investments in the company.

As an Armenian American, Kerkorian provided over $1 billion for charity in Armenia through his Lincy Foundation.

Kerkorian is survived by his two daughters and three grandchildren.