Despite Paris Hilton's hopes and dreams for growing her collection of pink Bentleys without much work, she'll likely have to pursue that dream on her own. That's because the patriarch of the Hilton family, Barron Hilton, plans to leave 97 percent of his estate to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation upon his passing, leaving just 3 percent to be divided among his numerous heirs. That wasn't always the plan. Reportedly Barron was all set to leave his entire $4.5 billion estate to his family but changed his mind in 2007 after being so embarrassed by what Paris had done to the Hilton name. This move will effectively double the holdings of the foundation named for his father, Conrad (who built the hotel empire from nothing), when Barron dies. Great for humanity, bad for Hilton heirs at large. Thanks to Paris, they just lost out on $4.3 billion.
History of the Hilton Fortune
Conrad "Connie" Hilton, recently portrayed as a needy, shoot-from-the-hip businessman in AMC's Mad Men, bought his first hotel in Texas in 1919, after a deal to buy a bank fell through. His timing was impeccable. The ongoing oil boom in the state ensured fully booked rooms that could sometimes be turned over three times in one day. He went on to build the high-rise Dallas Hilton in 1925, and followed with three more Hiltons in Texas over the course of the next five years. During the Great Depression, Conrad lost a number of his hotels and nearly went bankrupt — a small hiccup in an otherwise sterling career that saw his empire eventually expand to become the world's first international hotel chain. By 1966, his second son, Barron, replaced him as president of Hilton Hotels.
In 1979, at the age of 91, Conrad Hilton died of natural causes, leaving $10,000 each to his nephews, nieces, and daughter, and $500,000 to his two siblings. The remainder of the estate was bequeathed to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which he had founded in 1944. Barron contested his father's will after his death, despite the fact that he was being left as president of the corporation. A settlement was reached, leaving Barron with 4 million shares of the enterprise, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation with 3.5 million shares, and the W. Barron Hilton Charitable Remainder Unitrust with 6 million shares.
It was Christmas of 2007 that Barron Hilton announced his intentions to leave the bulk of his estate (currently estimated at $2.5 billion) to a charitable unitrust, which will ultimately be merged with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Pending the sale of the Hilton Hotels Corp., as well as Harrah's Entertainment Inc., the total value of the contribution will be roughly $4.5 billion. In this way, Barron was not only leaving the majority of his personal assets, but also returning the Hilton family fortune amassed by his father, which would have gone to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation in the first place if Barron had not contested his will.
The mission of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, derived from Conrad Hilton's last will and testament, is to "relieve the suffering, the distressed, and the destitute" by focusing on areas of need — homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness, natural disasters, children in need, and so much more. He wrote that the directors of the foundation should "shelter little children with the umbrella of your charity." Equal to any one of the six Nobel Prizes, at $1.5 million, the annual Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize is the biggest humanitarian award in the world. It is awarded annually to a non-profit organization that has made impressive advancements in easing human suffering.
That's a pursuit that unquestionably holds a much greater social importance than the purchase of a $220,000 car encrusted with another $285,000 worth of diamonds, which is how his granddaughter chooses to spend her money. It's been reported that Barron is extremely embarrassed by Paris. He believes Paris has permanently tarnished the Hilton name. As such, within the last two years Barron made a 180 degree change with his last will and testament. He had been planning on leaving his entire $4.3 billion estate to his family, but is now instead leaving 97% to charity. We won't know for sure until Barron passes away, but it's been speculated that Paris herself has been specifically cut out of receiving anything from the estate. Considering Paris already has $100 million in the bank, I doubt she'll care too much. But if I were one of Paris' less fortunate cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings… I'd be pissed. Thanks to her endless supply of sex tapes, DUI arrests, awful reality shows and all the rest, Paris has cost her extended family members $4.3 billion. Ouch!
Meanwhile, Barron is determined to follow his father's shining example of charity instead of further padding his heirs' already fattened trust funds. Maybe this is also his way of making amends with the world for unleashing Paris Hilton onto us, in the first place.