The Money: The Battle for Howard Hughes's Billions

James Phelan, Author, Lewis Chester, With
James Phelan, Author, Lewis Chester, With Random House (NY) $23 (288p) ISBN 978-0-394-55637-6
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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Fortunately, this is not another biography of Howard Hughes, nor is it a financial history of how the billionaire made and mismanaged his fortune--although the book covers all that--instead, it is the affably told story of what happened to Hughes's money, perhaps $5 billion, after he died in 1976. And what happened was one bizarre lawsuit after another. Hughes seems to have written no will, although several were ""found"" by would-be heirs. More than 500 people claimed to be related to Hughes, including supposedly illegitimate children and women who said they were secretly married to him (actress Terry Moore being the best known). Ultimately, the estate was shared by doctors, relatives and lawyers. The story also deals with the complexly organized and abysmally run Howard Hughes Company he left behind that was being milked by its wily trustees. The book's hero is Hughes's cousin Will Lummis, who wages a 10-year battle to drive out the scoundrels and turn the operation into a moneymaker. The irony is that the lawsuits revealed the secrets Hughes worked so hard--and paid so much money--to conceal, including his drug addiction and mental illness. Phelan and Chester (who wrote Hoax, about Clifford Irving's Howard Hughes book scam) render nicely a new version of a familiar story. Photos not seen by PW. (Oct.)
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