Paulson & Co. paid $480 million for a little more than 9 percent of the company

A hedge fund that made a reported $15 billion betting on the collapse of the U.S. housing market has become MGM Mirage’s second-largest shareholder.

Paulson & Co. this week disclosed its purchase of 40 million shares of MGM Mirage and 4 million shares of Boyd Gaming, in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The acquisitions were made in the first quarter.

Paulson paid $12 a share for MGM Mirage, a total of $480 million for a little more than 9 percent of the company.

MGM Mirage founder, billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, remains the company’s largest shareholder by far, controlling 37 percent of the company through his private investment company, Tracinda Corp.

The Boyd Gaming acquisition gave the hedge fund 4.6 percent of the company’s outstanding shares, the fourth-largest ownership stake. Paulson paid $9.88 a share, or $39.52 million.

The firm didn’t comment on the purchases, according to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, but boss John Paulson, who oversees $35 billion in hedge funds, has said he’s bullish on the U.S. economy. He thinks housing prices could climb 3 percent to 5 percent this year and 8 percent to 12 percent in 2011.

“We’re looking for a very strong period of corporate earnings growth,” he said on a recent conference call.