THE MONEY by James R. Phelan


The Battle for Howard Hughes's Billions
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 Howard Hughes departed his own bizarre world and the real one two decades ago. If you've ever wondered what finally happened to his closely guarded fortune, you'll find the fascinating answer here. Phelan (Howard Hughes: The Hidden Years, 1977, etc.) and former London Sunday Times staffer Chester cogently reprise the crazy death and fabulous curriculum vitae of the industrialist, gambling czar, movie maker, aviator, womanizer, drug addict, and lunatic billionaire. Then the authors, both longtime Hughes watchers, concentrate on the true protagonist: The Money. Was Hughes's legacy relatively chump change of $165 million or really more than $5 billion? Another mystery: Howard's end initiated a search for his last will and testament. To date, no will has been found. But there soon appeared, together with some decidedly odd stories, lots of fakes, along with putative heirs, grieving widows, and lost relatives. California and Texas, mindful of death taxes, each asserted domicile. (Nevada did not impose a death levy, and the obvious domicile for Hughes, La-La Land, was not heard from). The Homeric battle for The Money centered on control of the Summa Corporation and of the principle owner of the fortune, the Medical Institute, originally organized as a tax dodge. As villains, the authors provide the controlling privy councillors, and as hero, Hughes's nephew, Will Lummis, who finally got the thing settled. With the fascination of a visit to a crime scene, the text describes what lawyers daily do for a living, albeit usually for less monumental stakes. Finally, The Money went to doctors (for research), relatives, tax collectors, and even some lawyers--all people Hughes disliked intensely. A great tale, told adroitly, and a worthy addition to the great library of Hughesiana. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-394-55637-2
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1997