THE HOWARD HUGHES STORY
It all began with a marvelous invention.
On August 10, 1909, wildcatter Howard Robard Hughes, Sr. was granted two U.S. patents on a drilling bit that created the cornerstone of Hughes Tool Company, revolutionizing the oil industry.
Orphaned at the age of 19, Howard Jr. assumed control of the company in 1924, becoming one of the world's wealthiest teenagers. A man who made things happen and whose diverse passions and talents brought him considerable fame and fortune, Hughes was an award-winning film director, innovative industrialist, a highly skilled financial investor and a philanthropist whose generosity was boundless.
Film was one of Hughes' first passions. In 1926, he teamed with well-known director, Lewis Milestone to produce "Two Arabian Knights," an overwhelming box office hit. The success of his next movie, "Hell's Angels," a movie about the pilots of the Royal Air Force, made Hughes one of the most sought-after celebrities in the burgeoning film industry. Perhaps the most notorious Hughes' film was "The Outlaw," released in 1946 and starring the buxom Jane Russell. Even as his interests turned elsewhere, Hughes continued his involvement in the motion picture industry. He acquired control of RKO Pictures in 1948 and produced films until he sold the company in 1955 for $25 million.
If film was one of Howard Hughes' great loves, aviation was his obsession.
He formed Hughes Aircraft Company that went on to become one of the nation's largest defense contractors. He designed and built the world's fastest plane - the H- 1 Racer - and personally set the land-speed record of 352 miles per hour in 1935. Named "Aviator of the Year" in 1938, he held other significant aviation records for coast-to-coast flight and circumnavigation of the globe. In 1939, he began acquisition of controlling interest in Trans World Airlines, which he would sell 27 years later for $546 million. In 1940, he established the Hughes Aircraft Company Division to conduct research and pursue government contracts in aircraft and radio communications. Ultimately, it was the Spruce Goose, designed to transport troops across seas and the most controversial plane in history, for which Hughes became best known in the world of aviation - despite the fact that the plane was only flown once.
In 1953, ownership of the Hughes Aircraft Company was transferred to the newly formed Howard Hughes Medical Institute to promote medical research and education. The institute is currently the largest privately endowed medical research organization in the world. Aviation-related acquisitions continued as Hughes bought Air West Airlines in 1970, renaming it Hughes Air West. The company had already bought the fixed-base operation and charter terminal at Las Vegas' McCarran Airport.
HUGHES TAKES NEVADA BY STORM
When Hughes arrived in Las Vegas in the 1960s, the economy was at a low point, with real estate values in a slump. Hughes absorbed virtually the entire inventory of unimproved real estate overhanging and depressing the city's glutted real estate market and is credited with saving Las Vegas from economic disaster. Building on a 25,000-acre land holding he had originally acquired in the early 1950s, Hughes established himself not only as the valley's largest landowner, but as a principal player in the region's economy.
He pioneered corporate and multiple ownership of gaming properties, adding six Las Vegas hotel/casinos to his vast operation. With significant holdings in Nevada, California and Arizona, he was one of the largest landholders in the United States.
In failing health and increasingly isolated by choice, Hughes left Las Vegas in 1970. On April 5, 1976, while en route from Acapulco, Mexico, to Houston, Texas, the famed industrialist died of kidney failure. Fittingly, he died aboard an airplane.
He left behind an incredibly complex estate made up of 26 operating companies involved in 16 different lines of business, along with 49,000 acres of real estate.