Be My Guest, a biography published in 1958 by hotelier Conrad Hilton, tells the Amazing Story of how Conrad Hilton, dubbed by Time Magazine as the Innkeeper to the World, went from owning one shabby hotel in Cisco Texas in 1919 to building a hotel chain that spanned over 3600 hotels throughout the globe.
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Be My Guest
This is the story of how Conrad Hilton entered and took over the Hotel business. From broke at 40 to owning an enormous hotel chain including the Waldorf Astoria.SHOP NOW
Conrad Hilton was born in San Antonio New Mexico, and his father Gus made a living selling supplies to men making a living working the backwoods of New Mexico. Somewhat prosperous, his family moved to California and was wealthy enough to buy plenty of stock. However, the stock became relatively worthless in 1907 due to a financial crisis that first hit the New York Stock Exchange and then spread countrywide. Gus however, still had assets back in New Mexico, including a large 10-room adobe house which the family converted into a boarding house and charged workers $2.50 a day including meals.
Conrad worked for his father for 11 years, from a tender age, but longed to make a success on his own terms with the intention of going into owning a bank.
World War I was the first hurdle for Mr. Hilton, and while on active duty, his father died in a car accident.
Very frugal throughout the years, Conrad managed to save around $5,000, (roughly $50,000 in today's money), and after the war, his intention was to own a bank, and then a chain of banks. In 1923, after attempting to own a bank in Albuquerque, Conrad moved to Cisco, Texas which was having an oil boom.
When he moved to Cisco, even the owner of his hotel, the Mobley, despite making great profits, was anxious to sell and get into the oil business. So when a bank acquisition deal failed, Conrad bought the Mobley.
Hilton then shifted his interest to owning hotels and bought several run-down hotels in Texas, all of which were quite profitable.
But Hilton wanted more, and while it took a while, he was able to build a grand hotel in Dallas for around $1 million dollars.
Life was great, Hilton got married, had children, and with 9 hotels beneath him, all went swimmingly. And then, 19 days after the Hilton hotel in Dallas was complete, the
1929 depression hit.
Hilton's finances took a deep dive, during the depression, so big that he lost several of his hotels and actually had to pawn his clothes as he went into bankruptcy.
Still, his ability at hotel management was highly valued, and Hilton was called upon to manage all of his hotels, he eventually was able to retain ownership of all his lost hotels.
Over the late 1930s Hilton, having regained much of his lost financial footing, wound up expanding first on the East Coast and West Coasts and Chicago, and by 1954, three years before he published his biography, Hilton's hotel chain had blossomed to 188 hotels throughout the world.
Although he was mega-successful as a hotelier, Mr. Hilton gives his mother and father great credit for his success, although they both had deeply different approaches to success.
His mother, a deeply Catholic woman, constantly urged Conrad to "Pray for Sucess," while his father, a more practical man, urged Conrad to "work, work, work."
Later when writing his biography at age 70, Conrad also realized that there was a third element to his success, which came in the way of dreaming big.
Conrad was always a huge believer, and much like many gentlemen who lived in the era of the great depression and then saw America go through great prosperity from 1946 to 1964, Conrad was determined to see his dreams of financial success come true.
By the time he died in 1979 at the age of 91, Hilton had acquired $1 billion dollars in assets, and he was one of around 40 or so billionaires in the United States.
His story provides inspiration for anyone who doesn't know their future path to success but are hungry enough to keep themselves open to opportunity.
After all, Conrad Hilton did not set out to become a hotelier, but while exploring other opportunities, he found his way to his calling.
Another principle that is highly important to the Conrad Hilton story is his thriftiness. By the time he bought the Mobley hotel, he had saved up over $5,000, a princely sum in those days.
Although the opportunity arose in the Mobley when Mr. Hilton's explorations at buying a bank fell through, it was his savings investment that allowed him to purchase his first hotel.
Having a sufficient investment of seed money is one thing that separates many dreamers from reality.
Conrad Hilton was born in 1887 and died at age 91 in 1979. He married, Mary Adelaine Barron in 1925, and the couple had three children, Conrad Hilton Jr., Barron Hilton and Eric Hilton.
Conrad and Mary divorced in 1936, and in 1942, Conrad married actress Zsa Gabor. The couple had one child Francesca who died in 1967 of a stroke. The couple divorced in 1947, and there are reports, at least from Zsa Zsa's perspective that neither party was particularly happy.
Conrad then remained single until 1976 when he married Mary Frances Kelly, who remained his wife until he died in 1979.
Hilton left the bulk of his estate to a foundation created in his name, and Hilton contributed millions of dollars worth of financial assistance to charities and educational institutions.
Conrad remained head of the Hilton Hotels Corporation and the Hilton International Company until his retirement in 1966 when he turned the reins over to his son Barron.
Besides creating the hotel chain, Conrad Hilton purchased the Carte Blanche Credit Company, the creator of the Diner's Club, the first independent credit card payment company in the world, and he was also a substantial investor in the American Cyrstal Sugar Company.
Mr. Hilton received honorary degrees from the University of Detroit in 1953, DePaul University in 1954, Barat College in 1955, Adelphi College in 1957, Sophia University, Tokyo in 1963, and the University of Albuquerque in 1975.
Besides his biography, published in 1958, Mr. Hilton also wrote a second biography in 1963 entitled Inspirations of an Innkeeper.
Hilton lived in a house in Bel Air California which he dearly loved from 1950 until the time of his death in 1979.
Of note is that long after his death, in 2009, he was portrayed by actor Chelcie Ross on the television series Mad Men for 6 episodes.
In addition, Hilton's great-grandaughter, Paris Hilton, is of course an active and somewhat polarizing social media star and active socialite.
No members of the Hilton Family really own any hotels since they were publicly sold in 2007, the surviving Hilton members have a lot of stock in Hilton Worldwide Holdings and continue to franchise hotels worldwide.