Barron Hilton, who oversaw the vast expansion of his father’s hotel empire and took part in changing the pro sports landscape as an original club owner in the American Football League, died on Thursday September 19 2019 at his home in Los Angeles. The last survivor of the A.F.L.’s founding ownership, he was 91
Son of hotel impresario Conrad Hilton (d. 1979) sold off final remnants of father's empire last year. Blackstone bought Hilton Hotels for $26 billion; personally reaped $800 million from the deal. Initially resisted following in father's footsteps, then rose from elevator operator to president. Became chairman 1979. Has now pledged to leave $1.2 billion to Conrad Foundation. Flies gliders, balloons, fixed-wing aircraft at his 1,000,000-acre ranch in Nevada.
Barron Hilton volunteered for the U.S. Navy during World War II and was assigned to the base at Pearl Harbor as a photographer’s mate. After his discharge, he earned a twin-engine rating from the University of Southern California’s Aeronautical School, and flying soon became a lifelong passion. Hilton began his business career at age 19 by acquiring the Los Angeles area distributorship of Vita-Pakt Citrus Products Co., and in 1956 he helped pioneer the aircraft leasing business by founding the Air Finance Corporation.
In 1960, he founded the Los Angeles Chargers professional football team and one year later moved the franchise to San Diego. In 1966, Hilton, together with other American Football League owners, forged a merger agreement with the National Football League that resulted in the creation of the Super Bowl.
In 1954 he was elected vice-president of Hilton Hotels and he was named president and chief executive officer in 1966, with the proviso that he discontinue his professional football responsibilities. Upon his father’s death in 1979, his responsibilities expanded to include chairman. He served as chairman and/or co-chairman from 1996 until the company’s sale and dissolution as a public company in 2007.
He previously served on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations and is a director emeritus of the BEST Foundation.
Mr. Hilton is survived by two daughters, Hawley and Sharon Hilton, and six sons: Steven, the chairman of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; Richard, the father of Paris Hilton and her three siblings; William Barron Jr.; David, Daniel and Ronald. He is also survived by 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His wife, Marilyn Hawley Hilton, died in 2004. His brothers Nicky and Eric and his half sister, Constance Francesca Hilton, whose mother was Zsa Zsa Gabor, also died before him.