Barron Hilton, son and successor to hotel pioneer Conrad Hilton, passed away on September 19, 2019, at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 91. During his life, Hilton oversaw his father’s famous hotel empire, as well as one of the largest private philanthropic organizations in the world, helping to build Conrad Hilton’s original $160 million gift of stock to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation into an endowment of more than $2.9 billion.
Hilton was born in Dallas on October 23, 1927. As a teenager, Hilton worked at the Town House in Los Angeles, parking cars for hotel guests. After joining the Navy at age 17 and serving at Pearl Harbor, Hilton began a successful 20-year career as an entrepreneur. Based on his growing success, his father invited him to join Hilton Hotels Corporation in 1954 as a vice president, while allowing him to continue to manage his outside business interests.
The board of Hilton Hotels Corporation asked Hilton to succeed his father as president and chief executive officer in 1966. For the next 30 years, he was known for creating shareholder value and expanding through innovative real estate transactions, including franchising and a bold move into the Las Vegas gaming market. From 1966 to 1996, he generated an average annual rate of return to shareholders of 15% with dividends.
After retiring in 1996, he remained with the corporation as co-chairman of the board as his hand-picked successor, Stephen F. Bollenbach, presided over a decade of mergers and acquisitions that made Hilton Hotels Corporation one of the largest and most successful companies in the industry. The company’s hotel and gaming operations were purchased by private equity firms in 2006 and 2007.
In 2007, Barron Hilton joined the Giving Pledge and announced that, like his father before him, he had committed 97% of his wealth to the philanthropic work of the Hilton Foundation. This planned gift, which surpasses the amount bequeathed by his father, is projected to increase the endowment to $6.3 billion and will make Barron Hilton the Foundation’s most significant donor.
In his free time, Hilton loved hunting, fishing and flying, and he often shared these passions and interests with friends, notable business leaders and aviators. Known for his competitive spirit, he also won his friends’ respect as a skillful and conservative pilot.
Hilton is preceded in death by his wife, Marilyn, who died in 2004 at age 76. He is survived by his eight children, 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
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