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Barron Hilton, Hilton Scion And Founder Of LA Chargers, Dead At 91

Barron Hilton

Barron Hilton, the son of Hilton Hotels & Resorts founder Conrad Hilton, has died.

Hilton was also the former president and CEO of the Hilton empire and the original owner of the Los Angeles Chargers. Hilton died of natural causes at his Los Angeles home on Thursday. He was 91 years old. 

“Today the world of hospitality mourns for one of the greats,” Hilton President and CEO Christopher J. Nassetta said in a statement. “Barron Hilton was an incredible family man, business leader and philanthropist … 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.”

A Hilton Hotel spokesman had no further comment on Barron’s passing to Bisnow

Barron’s son, Steven M. Hilton, who serves as chairman of the board at the nonprofit Hilton Foundation, said: “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.”

Born on Oct. 23, 1927, William Barron Hilton was one of four children of Conrad Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels. During his early years, Barron served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, received a multi-engine rating at the University of Southern California’s Aeronautical School and became a successful entrepreneur outside of his father's growing hotel chain.

Barron began work at his father's hotel empire in 1951, where he started in the operations department before becoming a vice president three years later, according to the LA Times.

An undated photo of Barron Hilton

In 1960, Barron became one of the first business investors in the American Football League, an upstart organization challenging the National Football League's football monopoly. 

Barron was the original owner of the Los Angeles Chargers. He is credited with coming up with the team's famous lightning bolt design because of his love for aviation. He also served as the American Football League's president and helped negotiate the AFL and NFL merger, when all eight original AFL teams joined the NFL brand. He sold the team in 1966.

In 1966, Barron succeeded his father Conrad as chairman, president and CEO of Hilton Hotels.

In his 30-year tenure as the head of Hilton, Barron is credited with growing his father's hotel empire by expanding into the Las Vegas market, introducing innovative security measures and creative real estate transactions, including franchising.

He generated an average annual rate of return to shareholders of 15% with dividends, according to the Hilton Foundation.

He retired in 1996 but remained chairman of the board.

Like his father, Conrad, Barron left 97% of his wealth to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The planned gift is projected to increase the foundation’s endowment from $2.9 billion to $6.3 billion, according to the foundation.

Barron is preceded in death by his wife of nearly 60 years, Marilyn Hawley Hilton. He is survived by his eight children, 15 grandchildren, including Paris and Nicky Hilton, and four great-grandchildren.