There is no doubt that the Kardashian-Jenner clan, consisting of Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, Rob, Kendall, Kylie, and their mother Kris, is one of the most famous families in the world. Ever since coming into prominence in 2007, thanks to their E! reality series Keeping Up with the Kardashians which just had its 15th season, their popularity, fame, and wealth has only grown.
However, before the Kardashian children were as well-known as they are today, many with families and successful businesses of their own, it was their father – Robert Kardashian – who was famous. After defending his friend O.J. Simpson in one of the most controversial cases of all time, lawyer/businessman Robert Kardashian became a household name.
Unfortunately, his life ended much too soon, and he passed away from cancer in September, 2003 – when he was just 59 years old. Today, he is remembered by his ex-wife Kris, and his children who all loved the dedicated and big-hearted father dearly.
Today, many people know Robert Kardashian as the late biological father of Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, and Rob Kardashian – as well as the ex-husband of their mom, Kris Jenner.
Many years before the Kardashians were one of the most famous families in the world thanks to their reality series Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Robert Kardashian was known as the defense attorney, and close friend, of O.J. Simpson aka the former NFL football player who was accused of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson. However, there was a lot more to Robert Kardashian’s life than most people knew about.
Robert George Kardashian was born and raised in Los Angeles, California with his sister Barbara, brother Tom, and his Armenian-American parents Helen and Arthur Kardashian. His great-grandparents, Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, and Rob’s great-great grandparents were Armenian-Christian immigrants who came to America from Karakale, now known as Turkey’s Kars Province.
His grandfather, the Kardashian siblings’ great-grandfather, Tatos – who later became Tom – ended up settling in Los Angeles in order to start his own garbage collection business and eventually married fellow immigrant from Kars, Hanna Shakarian – the Kardashians’ great-grandmother. By the time Robert was born on February 22, 1944, his parents, Helen and Arthur, were owners of a very successful meat-packing company in Los Angeles.
Becoming a lawyer
Robert grew up in the beautiful Baldwin Hills neighborhood of LA, where he was a student at Susan Miller Dorsey High School. When it came time for him to choose a university, he decided to stay nearby enrolling in University of Southern California where he ended up graduating with a degree in business administration in 1966.
After realizing that he wanted to become a lawyer, he went to University of San Diego’s law school where he eventually earned his degree in law. Following his graduation, he immediately started working as an attorney. However, after nearly a decade of practicing law, he decided it was time to change his career a bit.
In 1973, Robert found himself more focused on business – and became a co-founder of a trade publication called Radio & Records, which ended up getting sold by him and his partners for a great profit in 1979. Robert then found himself in the midst of several various business opportunities, and even started a company called Movie Tunes, an in-theatre music and advertising company.
He later ventured off into solid investments with Juice Inc. – a frozen yogurt company, as well as a music video company called Concert Cinema. At this point, the successful and wealthy businessman was sure that his former days of practicing law were well behind him. Little did he know he would be a lawyer in one of the most famous cases of all time some years later.
Around the same time, Robert Kardashian had met a young woman – ten years his junior – named Kris Houghton. Kris, who was raised in the “redneck” area of San Diego by her strict grandmother, was only 17-years-old when she met Robert at a horse-racing track. He had told her she looked like a young Natalie Wood.
Although Kris was in a relationship with pro-golfer Cesar Sanudo at the time – who was also 10 years her senior – she fell for Robert and ended up breaking Cesar’s heart when he found out about her and her new lover’s affair. However, the romance between Robert and Kris came to a sudden halt after Robert decided she was too young, and that he was looking for something more serious.
In 1975, Robert broke things off with Kris – who at the time had started working as a flight attendant for American Airlines and was living in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. However, he quickly set his eyes on someone new – this time the 30-year-old Priscilla Presley, who was fresh off of her divorce from her ex-husband, musical legend Elvis Presley.
The romance between Robert and Priscilla moved along steadily, and as things were getting more serious – Robert had brought up the topic of marriage.
However, Priscilla, who still cared about her famous ex, was not ready to tie the knot. According to a family friend, she had told Robert, “Look, I’m not going to marry anyone until Elvis dies.”
And with that, Robert decided to return to Kris, who had been heartbroken and devastated with his recent and highly-publicized relationship with Priscilla. However, Kris took him back – and quickly moved in with him into his Beverly Hills mansion. Two years later, on July, 8, 1978 – Kris and Robert got married.
Life of prestige
By April 1979, Robert and Kris had welcomed their first child, Kourtney Kardashian. Her sister, Kim, was quick to follow – born in October the following year. As the family grew – both in wealth and in size – they moved into a 7,000-square-foot mansion in Beverly Hills.
The ginormous estate, which had its own tennis courts and swimming pool – quickly became the place to party for their prestigious and well-off neighbors. One of their closest friends, who they hung out with quite often, was the newly retired NFL running back O.J. Simpson.
The Kardashian family was flourishing as Robert had sold his company Radio & Records for a good fortune, and in 1984, the couple welcomed their third child, Khloé. In March 1987, Kris gave birth to their fourth child, this time a son named Robert Jr.
Together, the Beverly Hills family seemed like something out of a fairytale. The had it all – success, wealth, and the ability to travel on luxurious family vacations all over the world. However, things were not as picture-perfect in the Kardashian household as it seemed.
A friend of Robert’s once told Page Six in an interview that “Kris had become bored” as a mother, and started to act “rebellious.” In 1989, Kris had an affair with a pro soccer player ten years younger than her, Todd Waterman.
Robert ended up finding out about his wife’s unfaithfulness and by March 1991, the couple had a divorce. Kris later confessed that cheating on Rob was one of her “biggest regrets” of her life.
Both Kris and Robert ended up moving on following their divorce. Kris married former Olympian Bruce Jenner (now Caitlyn Jenner) only a month after finalizing the divorce, and welcomed two new girls to the Kardashian-Jenner clan, Kendall and Kylie in 1995 and 1997.
Robert ended up getting engaged to Denice Shakarian Halicki, the widow of movie producer H.B. Halicki, but they never ended up getting married. Despite their complicated past, Robert and Kris maintained a nice friendship while they successfully co-parented their children.
During the summer of 1994, however, everything was about to change for Robert after he found out that his good friend was accused of murdering ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.
Nicole’s shocking and tragic death took a toll on the whole Kardashian family – especially Kris who was best friends with Nicole as both her and Robert used to hang out with the couple and travel with them often. The Kardashian children even used to call the couple Auntie Nicole and Uncle O.J. Following the death of Nicole, O.J. stayed at Robert’s house in order to avoid the press.
Defending a friend
Although Robert hadn’t practiced law in several years, and his license had since become inactive, he decided to reactivate his license so that he could help defend O.J. in court.
Robert joined O.J.’s main defense lawyers Robert Shapiro and Johnnie Cochran as part of the “Dream Team” and sat by his friend’s side the entire time during the 1995 trials. At the end of the controversial and incredibly highly-publicized and televised case – O.J. was found not guilty.
Despite Robert and O.J.’s former close friendship, rumors have been spreading around for years that Khloé, Robert and Kris’ third child, is actually O.J.’s biological daughter. Many have speculated that Kris and O.J. had an affair some time back and that Khloé was a result from the secret fling.
Family friend Joni Migdal, and Robert’s two subsequent wives even claimed that Robert didn’t believe Khloé was his biological daughter. In 2012, when Kris offered to get Khloé a DNA test to put the rumors to rest, Khloé turned it down saying, “I don’t need someone to tell me who my family is.”
Following the trial, which had made Robert Kardashian into a household name, he got married to his second wife, Jan Ashley in 1998. However, their marriage only went on to last a month, and was annulled after 30 days.
Jan would later claim that it was his frequent stress due to his ex-wife Kris and his children that was the cause of their sudden divorce. Robert then met Ellen Pierson, who he married in 2003, just six weeks prior to his death.
Robert Kardashian was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus in July of 2003. Two months later, the horrifying illness tragically took his life, and he passed away on September 30, 2003 at the young age of 59. The whole Kardashian family, especially his children who were always extremely close with their truly dedicated and loving father, were left in complete devastation following his sudden death.
Kris later said in an interview with E!’s Giuliana Rancic, “The knowledge that he had cancer was one thing, but to think it would actually take his life. I never in a million years thought that would happen to him.” Tearing up, she added, “It still stings so bad, like it’s so fresh.”