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Barron Hilton (1927–2019), hotel heir and Los Angeles Chargers founder

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He was the CEO of Hilton Hotels Corp. for more than 30 years as well as a notable philanthropist

Barron Hilton was the son of Conrad Hilton who took over the Hilton Hotels business and expanded it to include casinos. He was also a founding owner in the American Football League as the original owner of the Los Angeles Chargers. Hilton became CEO of Hilton Hotels Corp. in 1966, retaining the title for more than 30 years. It was in the early 1970s that he led the company’s move into Las Vegas, where he acquired the Flamingo Hotel and Las Vegas International, later renamed Hilton Las Vegas, becoming the first company listed on the New York Stock Exchange to offer gambling. When Conrad Hilton died in 1979, Barron Hilton challenged his will in order to gain control of Hilton Hotels Corp. stock that the elder Hilton had left to his charitable foundation. After drawn-out legal proceedings, the younger Hilton prevailed, taking over voting authority on 34 percent of the company’s shares. Like his father before him, Hilton pledged to leave 97 percent of his wealth to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. A pilot with great enthusiasm for flight, Hilton founded the Barron Hilton Cup glider competition and was a member of the International Air & Space Hall of Fame. He was the father of Rick Hilton and the grandfather of socialites Paris Hilton and Nicky Hilton Rothschild.

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Died: September 19, 2019 (Who else died on September 19?)

Details of death: Died at home in Los Angeles of natural causes at the age of 91.

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Football years: When Lamar Hunt was forming the American Football League in 1959 as a rival to the National Football League, he offered the ownership of the Los Angeles team to Hilton, who quickly agreed. Hilton named his team the Chargers and, in 1961, moved it to San Diego. He became president of the AFL in 1965, and the following year, he helped negotiate the league’s merger with the NFL. When Hilton became CEO of Hilton Hotels Corp. in 1966, he stepped down from his involvement with the Chargers and the AFL. He was the last of the original eight AFL team owners still surviving.

What people said about him: “Barron Hilton was an incredible family man, business leader and philanthropist. From his leadership of our company for more than three decades, to the transformative work he led with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for many years, Barron was a man unlike any other. I always found inspiration in how he saw the tremendous potential of hospitality to change the world for the better — and in the unique and meaningful ways he sought to make that happen.” —Hilton Hotels Corp. President and CEO Christopher J. Nassetta

“Barron Hilton was a legend of aviation, a successful philanthropist and a great sport. His many aerospace friends will never forget the Barron Hilton Cup, the Flying M Ranch — where so many of us met — his easygoing hospitality and generous friendship. RIP Barron!” —Twitter user @roblagnac

Full obituary: San Francisco Chronicle

Related lives:

  • Conrad Hilton (1887–1979), founder of Hilton Hotels Corp.
  • Lamar Hunt (1932–2006), American Football League founder
  • Bud Adams (1923–2013), AFL co-founder and original Tennessee Titans owner