Howard Hughes

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Howard Hughes : biography

24 December 1905 – 5 April 1976

The deal was the topic of a protracted legal battle between Hughes and the Internal Revenue Service, which Hughes ultimately won. After his death in 1976, many thought that the balance of Hughes’ estate would go to the institute, although it was ultimately divided among his cousins and other heirs, given the lack of a will to the contrary. The HHMI was the 4th largest private organization as of 2007"2007 Annual Report". Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Retrieved: March 13, 2010. and the largest devoted to biological and medical research, with an endowment of US$16.3 billion as of June 2007.

RKO

In 1948, Hughes gained control of RKO, a struggling major Hollywood studio, by acquiring 25 percent of the outstanding stock from Floyd Odlum’s Atlas Corporation. Within weeks of taking control, he dismissed three-quarters of the work force and production was shut down for six months in 1949 while he undertook the investigation of the politics of all remaining studio employees. Completed pictures would be sent back for re-shooting if he felt his star (especially female) was not properly presented, or if a film’s anti-communist politics were not sufficiently clear. In 1952, an abortive sale to a Chicago-based group with no experience in the industry disrupted studio operations even further.

Hughes sold the RKO theaters in 1953 as settlement of the United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. antitrust case. With the sale of the profitable theaters, the shaky status of the film studio became increasingly apparent. A steady stream of lawsuits from RKO’s minority shareholders, charging him with financial misconduct a corporate mismanagement, became an increasing nuisance, especially because Hughes wanted to focus on his aircraft-manufacturing and TWA holdings during the Korean War years. Eager to be rid of the distraction, Hughes offered to buy out all other stockholders.

By the end of 1954, at a cost of nearly US$24 million, he had gained near total control of RKO, becoming the closest thing to a sole owner of a Hollywood studio seen in three decades. Six months later, Hughes sold the studio to the General Tire and Rubber Company for US$25 million. Hughes retained the rights to pictures he had personally produced, including those made at RKO. He also retained Jane Russell’s contract. For Howard Hughes, this was the virtual end of his 25-year involvement in motion pictures; though he had all but destroyed a major Hollywood studio, his reputation as a financial wizard emerged unscathed. He reportedly walked away from RKO having made US$6.5 million in personal profit.Lasky 1989, p. 229.

General Tire was interested mainly in exploiting the value of the RKO library for television programming, though it made some attempts to continue producing films. After a year and a half of mixed success, General Tire shut down film production at RKO for good at the end of January 1957. The studio lots in Hollywood and Culver City were sold to Desilu Productions later that year for US$6.15 million.

Nixon scandal

Shortly before the 1960 Presidential election, Richard Nixon was harmed by revelations of a US$205,000 loan from Hughes to Nixon’s brother Donald. It has long been speculated that Nixon’s drive to learn what the Democrats were planning in 1972 was based in part on his belief that the Democrats knew about a later bribe that his friend Bebe Rebozo had received from Hughes after Nixon took office.

In late 1971, Donald Nixon was collecting intelligence for his brother in preparation for the upcoming presidential election. One of Donald’s sources was John H. Meier, archives.gov. Retrieved: February 25, 2012. a former business adviser of Hughes who had also worked with Democratic National Chairman Larry O’Brien.

Meier, in collaboration with former Vice President of the United States Hubert Humphrey and others, wanted to feed misinformation to the Nixon campaign. Meier told Donald that he was sure the Democrats would win the election because Larry O’Brien had a great deal of information on Richard Nixon’s illicit dealings with Howard Hughes that had never been released; archives.gov. Retrieved: February 25, 2012."Hughes Nixon and the C.I.A." Playboy Magazine, September 1976. O’Brien didn’t actually have any such information, but Meier wanted Nixon to think he did. Donald told his brother that O’Brien was in possession of damaging Hughes information that could destroy his campaign.Bellett 1995, pp. 32, 36, 160. Terry Lenzner, who was the chief investigator for the Senate Watergate Committee, speculates that it was Nixon’s desire to know what O’Brien knew about Nixon’s dealings with Hughes that may have partially motivated the Watergate break-in.Stahl, Lesley. CBS News. Retrieved: January 5, 2008.