W. Barron Hilton
W. Barron Hilton
Amount donated: $1.2bn
Philanthropic Causes: Homelessness, health, youth, education, disaster aid.
Region of philanthropic focus: United States, Developing World
Ranking: 18th on Forbes’ America’s 50 Top Givers list in 2014
Net Worth: $2.5bn, according to Forbes in March 2011
While the Hilton name has become synonymous with celebrity culture in recent years, reality star Paris’ grandfather, W. Barron Hilton – former head of the hotel empire – has shied away from the spotlight to concentrate on giving.
The 88-year-old business magnate has donated a huge $1.2bn to charitable causes throughout his lifetime, and has pledged to leave a whopping 97% of his $2.3bn wealth to his family Foundation in his will.
Born the second son of Conrad Hilton and his first wife Mary Adelaide Barron, W. Barron was at first reluctant to follow his father, who established the Hilton empire in 1919 when he purchased a hotel in Texas, into the family business.
Hilton served as a Naval photographer during World War II, before attended the University of Southern California Aeronautical School to explore his passion for aviation. Before joining his father in the hotel industry, Hilton honed his entrepreneurial skills as Los Angeles distributor of Vita-Pakt Citrus Products, co-founding MacDonald Oil Company, and founding Air Finance Corporation, before being elected vice president of Hilton Hotels in 1954. Hilton was then named president and chief executive officer of to company in 1966 and became chairman following his father’s death in 1979. He remained at the company until 2007, when he sold the business to The Blackstone Group for approximately $26bn.
It was at the end of that year that Hilton announced plans to give $1.2bn to the Hilton family Foundation when he dies, pushing the value of the Foundation and its affiliated charities to and estimated $4.3bn. “My father left 97 percent of his wealth to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, and I am proud to follow my father’s example,” Hilton said at the time.
In 2010, Hilton reiterated his plans by signing the Giving Pledge. In his commitment letter Hilton wrote: “My father passed away in 1979 at age 91. Throughout his life, he embraced the power of prayer, and felt it was our God-given responsibility to alleviate the suffering of the most disadvantaged among us.” He continued: “I am gratified that our Foundation will live on forever, aiding the most vulnerable populations in the world. It will operate in perpetuity as a tribute to the customers, executives and hotel employees who created our
wealth in the first place.”
Hilton’s father founded the Foundation in 1944, with the aim of ‘improving the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people throughout the world’. The Foundation focuses on six strategic areas: Homelessness, teen substance abuse, helping youth make the transition out of foster care, access to safe water, support for the work of Catholic Sisters, and working with children affected by HIV and AIDS. The Foundation also funds five smaller programs: confronting sight loss, overcoming multiple sclerosis, responding to disasters, nurturing Catholic schools, and educating students for hospitality industry.
Since 1996, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation have also awarded an annual Humanitarian Prize of $1.5m to a non-profit organisation ‘judged to have made an exemplary contribution to alleviating human suffering’. In 2015, the prize money was raised to $2m, making it the world’s largest humanitarian prize for non profits. Throughout the years, winners of the prize have included: Operation Smile, SOS Children’s Villages, Women for Women International, HelpAge International and, most recently, Landesa.
Hilton stepped down from the board of the Foundation in 2014, after 64 years of service. He now resides in the Holmby Hills neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Hilton was married to his wife Marilyn June Hawley for 57 years, until her death in 2004. Together they had eight children: William, Hawley, Steven, David, Sharon, Richard, Daniel and Ronald, and 15 grandchildren, including socialites and reality stars Paris Hilton and Nicky Hilton Rothschild. Hilton’s third child, Steven, served 30 years at the Foundation before retiring as President and CEO in 2015.
At his time of leaving, Steven said: “It is truly a blessing to see how the collective efforts of our team have improved the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people around the world. The Hilton family philanthropy legacy will continue to grow, as will the Foundation, with my father’s pledge.”
A Hilton in the News (and It’s Not Paris)
Barron Hilton Wikipedia
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Conrad N. Hilton Wikipedia
William Barron Hilton Tops The Chronicle’s Philanthropy 50 List of the Most-Generous Donors of 2007
Colour image available at: