Barron Hilton, of Hilton Hotels Empire and Founding Owner of NFL Chargers, Dies

CNN Newsource
By CNN Newsource
September 21, 2019Business News
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Barron Hilton, of Hilton Hotels Empire and Founding Owner of NFL Chargers, Dies
Famous hotelier Barron Hilton, who spent two decades as an entrepreneur before succeeding his father as president of the board of Hilton Hotels Corp. in 1966. (Amanda Edwards and Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Hotel magnate Barron Hilton, an original owner of the NFL team — Los Angeles Chargers, died at his home in Los Angeles, his family announced on Sept. 20.

He was 91 and died of natural causes Thursday, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation said.

His son, Steven M. Hilton, who serves as chairman of the board at the Hilton Foundation, said the family is mourning the loss of a remarkable man.

“My father was a loving husband to our mother, Marilyn, a wonderful role model to his eight children, a loyal and generous friend, visionary businessman, respected leader and a passionate sportsman. He lived a life of great adventure and exceptional accomplishment.”

His granddaughter, Paris Hilton, said she has always looked up to him.

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of my grandfather Barron Hilton,” she tweeted. ” He was a legend, a visionary, brilliant, handsome, kind and lived a life full of accomplishment and adventure.”

During their final conversation, which Paris said took place just days ago, she said she got to tell him “how much of an impact he had on my life.”

Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton attends The Women’s Cancer Research Fund’s An Unforgettable Evening Benefit Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on Feb. 28, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

She concluded her post that “his spirit, heart and legacy will live on in me.”

‘Without Barron, There Would Be No Chargers’

In the late 1950s, he was approached by American Football League pioneers Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams about owning a franchise, and Hilton founded the Los Angeles Chargers in 1959. The team moved to San Diego after one season and appeared in five of the first six AFL title games, winning one.

Hilton sold a controlling interest in the Chargers to Gene Klein in 1966 for $10 million.

In a statement, the Chargers NFL team he helped found said it would not be in existence without him.

“Simply put, the modern NFL would not be what it is today without the vision of Barron Hilton,” said Dean Spanos, who now owns the Chargers franchise. “A founding father and charter member of the upstart AFL’s sarcastically self-dubbed ‘Foolish Club,’ Barron was a pioneering leader, risk-taking entrepreneur, prolific philanthropist, devoted family man and, of course, anything but foolish. … It seems fitting that we celebrate a life extraordinarily well-lived the same year as we recognize the Chargers 60th anniversary season since, without Barron, there would be no Chargers.”

Hilton Hotels

Hilton spent two decades as an entrepreneur before succeeding his father as president of the board of Hilton Hotels Corp. in 1966.

Even after he retired in 1996, he remained chairman of the board as his successor focused on mergers and acquisitions, according to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation website.

Hilton Hotels said in a statement “today the world of hospitality mourns for one of the greats.”

“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,” Hilton Hotels’ current president and CEO, Christopher J. Nassetta, said in a statement.

Hilton hotel
A hotel guest walks out of a Hilton hotel on Aug. 1, 2006, in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In 2007, CNN reported that Barron Hilton will pass on the $1.2 billion windfall from the sale of Hilton Hotels Corp. — not to his famous progeny, but to his family’s philanthropic foundation. His family said he committed 97% of his wealth to the foundation’s humanitarian work.

The CNN Wire and Reuters contributed to this report.

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