Hotel magnate, AFL charter franchise owner Barron Hilton dead at 91

Barron Hilton, who expanded his father's hotel empire and was a founding team owner in the American Football League, died Thursday. He was 91.

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Hilton's death was announced by the Conrad N. Hilton FoundationThe New York Times reported.

Hilton died of natural causes at his Los Angeles home, according to the Los Angeles Times. Hilton served as chief executive officer of the Hilton hotel chain for 30 years. The Blackstone Group bought the chain for $26 billion in 2007, purchasing a chain that included 2,800 hotels with 480,000 rooms in 76 countries, the Los Angeles Times reported.

In a statement, Hilton Hotels said, "the world of hospitality mourns for one of the greats."

"Barron Hilton was an incredible family man, business leader and philanthropist. From his leadership of our company for more than three decades to the transformative work he led with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for many years, Barron was a man unlike any other," Hilton Hotels' president and CEO, Christopher J. Nassetta said in the statement.

William Barron Hilton was born in Dallas on Oct. 23, 1927. He served in the Navy and was an entrepreneur before joining his father's company in 1951, working in the operations department, the Los Angeles Times reported. By 1954, he had been promoted to vice president.

Hilton was one of the charter owners in the American Football League, forming the Los Angeles Chargers when the league began play in 1960. Hilton moved the team to San Diego in 1961 after the franchise lost $900,000 in its inaugural season, and the Chargers won the 1963 AFL title, The New York Times reported.

The Chargers returned to their roots in 2017, becoming the Los Angeles Chargers again.

Dean Spanos, the current owner of the Chargers, said in a statement that Hilton was "a pioneering leader."

"A founding father and charter member of the upstart AFL’s sarcastically self-dubbed ‘Foolish Club,’ Barron was a pioneering leader, risk-taking entrepreneur, prolific philanthropist, devoted family man and, of course, anything but foolish," Spanos said. "Without Barron, there would be no Chargers."

Paris Hilton tweeted Friday that her grandfather was "a visionary."

"His spirit, heart and legacy will live on in me," she tweeted.

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