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Barron Hilton to leave most of fortune to charity

Paris' grandfather bequeaths 97% of his $2.3-billion net worth to family foundation.

December 27, 2007|Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writer

Hotel magnate Barron Hilton, grandfather of heiress Paris Hilton, has bequeathed 97% of his estimated $2.3-billion net worth to his father's charity foundation, officials said Wednesday.

The contribution to the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, to come from the sale of Hilton Hotels Corp. and the pending sale of Harrah's Entertainment Inc. after the money is placed in a trust, is the largest in the foundation's history and will bring its value to about $4.5 billion.

Barron Hilton, 80, pledged an immediate $1.2-billion donation to the foundation, with an estimated $1.1 billion to follow after his death.

The Holmby Hills resident is the foundation's chairman.

"Working to alleviate human suffering around the globe, regardless of race, religion or geography, is the mandate of the foundation set by my grandfather . . . and now reinforced by my father," Hilton's son Steven M. Hilton, president and chief executive of the organization, said in a prepared statement.

Paris Hilton, the most famous of Barron's 23 grandchildren, could not be reached for comment.

She has built her own moneymaking empire with a popular TV reality show, movie cameos and a hit single, plus appearances shilling perfume, burgers, books and canned champagne.

Hotelier Conrad Hilton, Barron's father and Steven's grandfather, established the charity in 1944 and left nearly all his fortune to the organization when he died in 1979.

The foundation, with offices in Century City and Reno, is the third-largest in Los Angeles County behind the California Endowment, with $3.8 billion, and the J. Paul Getty Trust, with $8.6 billion, according to the Los Angeles Business Journal.

Two decades ago, Barron Hilton fought the foundation in court, disputing the charity's ownership of a controlling 27.4% interest in Hilton Hotels Corp. He then split the shares' roughly $650-million value with the foundation after a protracted legal battle.

The charity has committed $560 million over more than six decades for programs to house the mentally ill and to increase access to safe drinking water in Africa and Mexico, among other projects.

This month, the foundation awarded a $1.6-million grant to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University to help provide stable housing for drug and alcohol users to aid in their recovery.

The foundation also awards a $1.5-million humanitarian grant each year, one of the world's largest. This year's recipient, Tostan, is a West African nongovernmental organization that works to educate people with little or no formal schooling and combat female genital mutilation.

The Hilton organization distributes about $60 million a year, and that amount is expected to increase with Barron Hilton's substantial gift, said Barbara Casey, a foundation spokeswoman.

A significant portion of the money supports the work of Roman Catholic nuns; more than half the foundation's grants go to international projects.

The Hilton hotel chain consists of more than 500 hotels around the world. Conrad Hilton bought his first in Cisco, Texas, in 1919.

The family name has become gossip-column fodder in recent years with the sex tape, red carpet antics and jail time of socialite and entrepreneur Paris.

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susannah.rosenblatt@latimes.com

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