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Fortune named Hilton the best company in the US to work for in 2020, according to employees.
The 100-year-old Hilton brand has a storied history.
What started as one hotel in Cisco, Texas in 1919 has grown into a worldwide hospitality giant behind colossal real-estate deals and a record-breaking IPO.
The wealthy family behind the company has been in the limelight for decades between brief but high-profile marriages to beloved actresses like Elizabeth Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor and the widely publicized lives of socialites-turned-moguls Paris and Nicky Hilton.
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Hilton was just named the best company to work for in the US by Fortune for the second year in a row.
The ubiquitous hotel company is comprised of more than 6,100 properties with 971,000 rooms in 119 countries and a workforce of 430,000.
And all of that began with Conrad Hilton’s $5,000 investment in Cisco, Texas a hundred years ago.
Here’s a look at the history of the hospitality giant and the iconic Hilton family behind it — from decades of eye-popping acquisition deals to generations of culturally significant marriages.
Conrad Hilton was the hotel magnate behind the iconic 100-year-old Hilton empire.
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Conrad Hilton was one of seven born in New Mexico in 1887 to Augustus Halvorsen and Mary Genevieve Hilton, who moved to the US in 1870 from Norway.
His father owned a grocery store and the family rented out rooms in their home, according to The Guardian.
After learning the basics of business from his father, Hilton went on to serve in the US army during WWI. He was a lieutenant in France with allied forces in the Quartermaster Corps, responsible for supplying fuel, food, clothes, and household items to the army. Quartermasters also identified and cared for dead soldiers. He was discharged from the army in 1919.
After the war, Conrad moved to Texas and bought his first hotel in 1919.
According to his 1979 New York Times obituary, 32-year-old Hilton had $5,000 to invest upon returning from war in 1919. He intended to buy a bank, but negotiations didn’t move fast enough for him — he bought a 40-room hotel in Cisco, Texas out of impatience.
The hotel became so successful, that Hilton turned the dining room into additional rooms to meet demand. While it’s no longer a hotel, the structure was named a Texas historical site in 1970.
Throughout the 1920s, Hilton continued to buy and build hotels in Texas. He finally expanded beyond the state in 1942.
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Hilton bought a luxury hotel in Los Angeles in 1942. In 1946, the Hilton Hotel Corporation was formed.
It was his long-standing ambition to own the hotel, but at first its owner didn’t want to sell it to someone who had other business interests. The New York State Realty and Terminal Company owned the land and was also concerned that he would run it down.
After several months, Conrad found out that someone else was interested in buying the hotel. He decided to use his own money instead of Hilton Hotel Corporation’s. One of the majority stockholders agreed to his proposal to buy 249,024 shares of stock at $12 a share.
In the end, he paid $3 million for about 69% of Waldorf and gradually increased his share to 100%.
The legendary hotel is a landmark building in New York has hosted every president from Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama.
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