Barron Hilton, a hotel magnate who expanded his father's chain and became a founding member of the American Football League, died Thursday at his Los Angeles home. He was 91.
Hilton's family said he had died for natural reasons. He transformed Hilton into the industry's top brand in his 30 years as managing director. The Blackstone Group purchased the 2,800 international chain hotels – including the famous Waldorf Astoria – in 2007 for $ 26 billion.
"The Hilton family mourns a remarkable man," said Steven M. Hilton, his son and chairman of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, in a statement. "He lived a life of adventure and exceptional accomplishments."
An avid pilot who served as a marine photographer during World War II, Hilton did not start working with his father until 1951, after making his own fortune with orange juice products, an oil company, and an aircraft leasing business. Hilton also founded the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFL and oversaw the merger of AFL and NFL.
William Barron Hilton was born in 1927 in Dallas, the son of Conrad N. Hilton, founder of Hilton Hotels, and Mary Adelaide Barron.
Hilton questioned his father's will and argued that the foundation's stake in helping Conrad Hilton's assets use Catholic nuns could expose the company to a hostile takeover – in a 10-year legal battle that ended in an agreement.
PARIS HILTON honors later grandfather BARRON HILTON: "HE WAS A LEGEND"  "It was a very painful decade," Hilton told USA Today in 1995. "Hilton against the nuns was not the best PR measure."
Hilton's wife Marilyn Hawley Hilton died in 2004. He is survived by eight children, 15 grandchildren – including the famous heirs Paris Hilton and Nicky Hilton – and four great-grandchildren.
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Hilton was the emeritus chairman of Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. He left about 97% of his estate to the foundation, which expects the amount of the foundation to rise from $ 2.9 billion to $ 6.3 billion.