The Life of Howard Hughes

Geoff Schumacher

Howard Hughes was an American original. The richest man in the world, and the first multi-billionaire in the world. He was stubborn, eccentric, and became increasingly crazy as time went on. Hughes was also fascinating, charming when he wanted to be, and interesting with a wide variety of interests. Money didn’t seem to be his main motivator in life.

He was an innovative engineer whose company Hughes Aircraft built the first moon surveyor craft which paved the way for the landings on the Moon. Hughes designed the modern hospital bed that’s still in use today after a serious crash he had in 1946. He was responsible for the first aircraft with retractable landing gear, and he built the largest plane in the world. Hughes also broke several important aviation records, including the fastest trip around the world, and the fastest flight across the United States.

Hughes broke new ground in films with such productions as the film Hell’s Angels which showed aerial combat shots with realism never before seen in the movies.

The money for his investments in films, Hughes Aircraft, and later the purchase of huge amounts of Las Vegas real estate in the late 1960s, came from Hughes Tool which made a drill bit used by virtually every oil company in the world. The company was competently run by Noah Dietrich for some 30 years. Robert Maheu would direct his enormous investments in Nevada real estate. His involvement in Nevada helped push the mafia out of Las Vegas and set the stage for what the city is today.

Hughes developed a unique management style that consisted of him lying in bed all day, and night, surrounded by often Mormon assistants that took care of his personal needs. He became increasingly dependent on drugs due to pains from a number of serious air crashes.

His companies, despite his eccentricities, were largely run well until near the end of his life and they remained very profitable. His “management style” calls into question the difficulty of actually running large companies in the US today for which CEO’s are so well compensated.