Richest People in History Howard Hughes

About Howard Hughes, history, biography and worth of one of the richest men in history.



This recluse-billionaire began the weird odyssey of his life in Houston, Tex., on Christmas Eve, 1905. His father, inventor of a drilling bit that revolutionized the oil business, died in 1924, leaving a fortune to his 18-year-old son. Howard proceeded to buy out all other claimants to the Hughes Tool Company and then used the company as the base on which to erect a billion-dollar business pyramid.

During the 1930s and 1940s, Hughes turned his attention to aviation and motion pictures. While designing, building, and flying airplanes that set transcontinental (1937) and round-the-world (1938) speed records, he simultaneously produced a host of thoroughly mediocre movies. His most outstanding contributions to cinema consisted of introducing Jean Harlow and Paul Muni and designing a cantilevered brassiere with which Jane Russell titillated moviegoers.

In 1952 Hughes went into complete seclusion, refusing even to appear in court when charged with antitrust violations regarding his operation of Trans World Airlines. He thus lost control of the airline which he had created, and in 1966 he was forced to sell his TWA shares, for which he received cash in excess of $500 million. During the final decade of his life he became heavily involved in Nevada real estate and casinos, and hardly ever set foot outside his Desert Inn Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. Rumors of his whereabouts placed him all over the globe during these years, but it was not until a Lear jet chartered in Acapulco brought his wretchedly uncared-for body to Houston on Apr. 5, 1976, that the public received any credible evidence of his existence.

How Much?

In May, 1968, Fortune magazine estimated Hughes's wealth at between $985.5 million and $1,373 million. The New York Times put the figure at $1.5 billion at the time of Hughes's death. The heart of his empire was the Summa Corporation, a personal holding company created when Hughes liquidated his shares in the Hughes Tool Company in 1972.

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