A best-selling celebrity biographer chronicles the epic saga of a family as well known for its business empire as for its role as tabloid fodder.
Today, the Hilton name might be more synonymous with gossip magazine headlines than the now-ubiquitous hotel chain that has outposts in every major city across the world. No longer is there a charismatic figurehead to act as the family’s anchor or face of the company, as founder and family patriarch Conrad Hilton (1887-1979) once had been. We can only speculate how Conrad, a man of deep Catholic conviction and faith who was known to openly resent freeloading relatives, would react to the unseemly behavior of some of his heirs. Nevertheless, Taraborrelli (After Camelot: A Personal History of the Kennedy Family—1968 to the Present, 2012, etc.) gives each Hilton family member his or her due. From Conrad’s tempestuous marriage to Zsa Zsa Gabor to son Nicky’s ill-fated and abusive marriage to a nubile Elizabeth Taylor, the Hilton name has often found itself mired in social controversy. All the while, the Hilton brand of hotels continued to grow exponentially, developing into an international juggernaut. When Conrad’s son Barron retired as CEO of the Hilton Hotel Corporation in 1996, the family’s control of the company remained mostly symbolic until Blackstone Group, a private equity group, purchased the entire corporation in 2007 for $20.1 billion. No longer is a Hilton family member steering the empire built by Conrad. Instead, the family controls the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to support various charitable causes and missions to fulfill Conrad’s vision of building a better world.
More than fluff, Taraborrelli has written the definitive biography of a family whose glory days may have passed but which simply refuses to recede into the background.