Chairman & CEO of Hilton Hotels Corp.
|Before joining his father, Conrad N. Hilton, in the hotel business, Dallas-born Barron Hilton proved his business acumen in a variety of businesses. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II as a photographer, Hilton acquired a Los Angeles-area distributorship of Vita-Pakt Citrus Products, an orange-juice business. In 1960, he founded the Los Angeles Chargers professional football team, later moving the team to San Diego. He also was a founder and president of the American Football League.
In 1954, Hilton joined his family company, Hilton Hotels, as vice president, and in 1966 he became president and CEO of Hilton Hotels Corporation. He later became chairman of the board. He is credited with expanding Hilton Hotels’ credit-card operation into the universal Carte Blanche system and developing the Hilton Inn franchise program.
Under Hilton’s leadership, Hilton Hotels Corp. also expanded into Las Vegas gaming with the purchase of the Las Vegas Hilton and Flamingo Hilton in 1970, becoming the first Fortune 500 Company and New York Stock Exchange Company to enter the gaming business. In 1982, Hilton Hotels re-entered the international market by introducing the Conrad International Hotels brand name. At the time of Hilton’s 1998 induction, Hilton Hotels had 499 properties worldwide with a total of 147,667 rooms.
Hilton was instrumental in the process of gifting the initial $1.5 million to build the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, as well as the subsequent donation that funded the construction of the College’s South Wing.
Today he lives in Southern California and is the chairman of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. An avid aviation enthusiast who owns and flies his own biplane, helicopter and hot-air balloons, Hilton volunteers his time for numerous organizations. In 1998, Pope John II admitted both Barron and Marilyn Hilton into the Pontifical Order of St. Gregory the Great.