Why We’re All Going to Hell, Part 54,302

A multi-billionaire industrialist donates 97% of his fortune to help fund clean water in Africa, education for blind children, and housing for the mentally ill, and it’s presented by one of the largest news organizations in the world in terms of what it means for Paris Hilton.

58 Comments on “Why We’re All Going to Hell, Part 54,302”

  1. In a handbasket. Or maybe a handbag, if we can find one trendy enough.

    As for this meaning Paris Hilton will have to work for a living, though: 3% of 2.3 billion is still 69 million dollars (someone check that. I suck at math). I am Jack’s total and complete lack of anything even resembling sympathy.

  2. I’m not sure that is going to force Paris Hilton to work for a living. After all, 3% of $2.3 billion is $69 million. I think the kids can live quite comfortably on that amount of money. (Not to mention that her father still has $300 million.)

  3. Greenfield @4: jinx! Owe me a coke!

    Seriously, though: w00t charitable donations for clean water in Africa, blind children, and care for the mentally ill. Rock on, Conrad Hilton.

  4. …just one? The BBC article starts off with “The inheritance of US heiress Paris Hilton looks set to shrink dramatically after her grandfather announced plans to give most of his fortune to charity.” CNN’s actually went into information on the charitable donations before getting into what it means for his granddaughter.

  5. …uh, that is, w00t education for blind children. Not w00ting their blindness. And now let’s see if I can go five minutes without posting.

  6. Go, Conrad.

    (Yeah, I noticed that about the news too.)

    I remember Kathy Hilton whining about how they aren’t really all that rich once. (They’d probably be richer if they didn’t let their daughter run around in dresses made of 1000 dollar poker chips.)

  7. Come on. How can the way the news organizations are handling this be surprising? I mean, if Paris wasn’t involved at all, it is doubtful this story would get any recognition in the press at all.

  8. However, anything that means Paris Hilton is going to have to work for a living is good news in my book.

    On the other hand, having to work for a living means that she is marginally less likely to become a recluse.

  9. This is one more example of why I am eternally shamed to be working in the news industry, albeit on a smaller scale for a small-town newspaper.

    The perception of news is skewed, and we focus on sensational items or people who have little worth other than to get people’s attention. Of course the real news here is the amazing good this money can achieve, not how it’s going to affect the lives of two vacuous celebutantes. But we cater to what people want, or rather what executive editors and publishers think people want, rather than giving them straight news. We always search for that angle, because there are a thousand other outlets, all jockeying for that same angle. Competition in news should be a good thing, when it translates to news organizations pushing to get all of the facts in a relevant news story and present them in an unbiased manner. Instead, we compete to get the shiniest, flashiest story, in the hopes of distracting the reader from the fact that the news is usually anything but, since the news doesn’t seem to sell papers anymore to the average American.

    Christ, I’m ashamed of what I do for a living.

  10. AEM, 100% sounds like a nice round percentage. He probably didn’t do it though to make the will harder to attack in court. After all, “he left us only $60 million” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as “he left us NOTHING!”.

    Barron Hilton donated 97% of his $2.3 billlion fortune to charity. That’s the important bit.

  11. What’s important, of course, is how this affects me, Jeff Hentosz. To wit, it solves the problem I had choosing a New Year’s Resolution. I couldn’t decide between “lose-weight-and-exercise” or “abandon-family-and-pursue-Paris-Hilton-for-her-fortune.” Whew; crisis averted.

    Seriously, the story here is even more appalling than the headline spin, when you get to the meat of it. It’s not Conrad Hilton making the bequest. He died nearly 30 years ago and tried to leave it all to charity. This mook — grandpa Barron — reclaimed half that money in court. Ponder: at the same time Live Aid was underway, the owner of hotels that were likely putting up a goodly number of those involved was in the process of successfully keeping half a fortune out of Africa.

    God bless us, everyone.

  12. It’s amazing how little I care about what happens to Paris Hilton. The angle of “How will this affect poor Paris” is…unsurprising, really. I wish I could say that I WAS surprised, but…nope, not.

    Good on Barron Hilton!

  13. Gee, I didn’t see anywhere in the story that he was leaving the other 3% to the family. Maybe his personal staff gets to retire in some luxury, and Paris got left “$100, the going rate…”. One can but hope.

    Kudos to Barron Hilton for his philanthropy. If we’re all lucky, a generation from now it’ll still be being used for what he intended, and not diverted to other “causes” as happens with so many foundations.

  14. Although I’m really happy for the organizations and people who will benefit from this donation, Jeff@15 makes a very good point. It appears that it’s only okay to leave the majority of the family fortune to charity after Barron the Mook’s life is almost over. So it’s okay for Paris & Co. to get out there and earn a living, but not for Gramps. Hypocrisy much?

  15. So she can still be a spoiled rotten, arrogant, worthless, brat — just not quite such a rich one. And the “news” people that worship such idiots will still worship her. Better he had disowned her and donated it all.

  16. Hypocrisy not.

    Barron Hilton actually worked his butt off helping build up the Hilton fortune. One can certainly argue that he stepped into a position to do so by parentage, but he hasn’t spent his life loafing around the nightclub circuit.

    His sister Francesca also sued for part of papa Conrad’s fortune at the same time, and lost her suit mostly because of her non-involvement in the corporation. In Barron’s case, work paid off.

  17. I hear the Motel 6 on the shady end of The Strip in Vegas pays an extra $2/hr for washed up celeb desk clerks who are willing to work the night shift.

  18. Okay, I’d understood that Paris Hilton lives off trust funds. The article says he’s including created trusts in the estate, but can he do that with trusts already earmarked? Which is to say, she presumably gets buckets of money now from trust funds. Will that change? She won’t get *more*, but from what I understood about trust funds, I’d have thought she wouldn’t get *less* either. Comments from someone who actually knows this stuff?

  19. I’d like to make a point or two, if I may.
    1) Paris almost certainly already has a trust fund that is not tabulated in Barron’s 2.3 billion, so this will likely not reduce her personal net worth at all.
    2) The charity in question was created by his father, so though I don’t know for sure it’s not hard to imagine that the Hilton family has an active role in it. They may have control of the money no matter what.
    3) I’m a cynic, and I’m skeptical that any of that money will actually help crippled blind leper children in Africa. Most likely it will go to administrators and African governments who will misuse it.

  20. Frankly this sounds to me less like sudden compassion for the situation in Africa on ole Barron’s part, and more like a case of “screw my parasitic relatives.”

    Either way, those that need it most will get some help – I’m speaking of the needy lawyers, of course.

  21. My question is why are all the billionaires(Gates, Winfrey, Hilton) donating their money to African nations? I’m not saying that it isn’t a good cause, but what is it about these causes that draws them? Less rules, maybe?

  22. Tully @ 21, I stand corrected. I (obviously) don’t know much about Barron’s personal history, but the dichotomy does smell a bit fishy.

  23. Just an observation, but I reject the notion that this “news” story means we’re all going to hell, in a handbasket, a trendy handbag, or otherwise.

    The story has nothing to do with me (or most of the rest of us, I humbly submit). I’m glad the charities are getting a big ol’ chunck of cash, mind you. The relative impact on Paris Hilton’s life means less than nothing to me. And, frankly, I might never have heard about the Paris angle had John Scalzi not linked it in here.

    This says more about our “media” than it does about anyone here (or anywhere else) going to hell……

    Now, if the point is that our media that is going to hell in a trendy handbag, well, I would not argue against that point.

  24. Patrick M. @ 26 – there are parts of Africa so heartbreakingly poor that it’s sickening. There are lots of people in Africa for whom living in a cardboard box would be an upgrade.

    Besides poverty, Africa is a place where a few billion can do a lot of good. That kind of money could probably buy enough vaccines to wipe out a contagious decease or two, for example.

  25. We’ve poured more than a few billion into Africa over the last couple decades. More like tens of billions.

    Most of it went into Swiss bank accounts.

    I do have hopes the Gates Foundation and other private institutions will do better. One can argue that aid from rich countries merely allowed the misery to perpetuate by propping up corrupt governments that stole almost all the money. Thanks to the lingering guilt of colonialism, Western governments having the spine to demand accountability was sadly lacking.

  26. Janiece–Obviously he (Barron) didn’t get to be in charge by clawing his way up from the bottom as a nobody. But he has actively run the company hands-on for half a century or so, beginning as papa Conrad’s protegé back in the ’50s. The reason he’s in the position to be owning and disposing of that particular pile of Hilton wealth is that he’s the one child of Conrad’s who picked up the load and did the work. Barron’s older brother Conrad Jr. was never really considered for the “boss heir” role–they were only a year apart but Conrad Jr, Elizabeth Taylor’s first husband, was a socialite alcoholic and not a worker bee. He died of a heart attack at age 42.

    Paris may have gotten her own leg up coming from wealth, but she’s also “earned” (if that’s the right word for it) something like $15 million on her own over the last few years. And her daddy Richard “Chip” Hilton is a succesful real estate dude in his own right, with a net worth somewhere north of $300 million or so . Cutting Paris off from Grampa Barron’s billions is hardly going to seriously dent her lifestyle.

    I kinda doubt that Barron’s decision is going to leave any of his relatives on welfare, so I don’t feel at all sympathetic.

  27. The take-away lesson to me seem to be that mentioning Paris Hilton in the title of an article gets people to read it.

  28. I agree with “Midwestern Progressive” how does this story mean we are all going to hell? Some clarification from the Post Master would be in order here!

  29. I am not even sure where to start. How about with the news media. We can’t really blame them because they do what ever they think will get them ratings. Ratings equals viewers, viewers equals ad money. So we have no one to blame but our selves for the state of the news.

    I am not sure what is so attractive about Africa for charity. I guess part of it is the fact that lots of people are dieing there from things we don’t give a second thought to. Safe water for a start. Personally I would follow the adage charity begins at home. Haveing just read the bit on the dentist in Kentucky I know of one place here at home that could use an infusion of cash. There are plenty of other opportunities in America where the money could do a lot of good. Like scholarships for lower middle class students. Try and help those who can’t afford college but earn too much for government aid. But that is just my opinion.

  30. Also note that the last para of that story explains that this vast fortune isn’t already in the Conrad Hilton trust because Barron sued when his father died, and wrested control of the money from the trust then.

    Perhaps his son will continue the tradition, and sue Barron to use the money until he, too, is old and tired and ready to give it away?

  31. Chas: Come on. How can the way the news organizations are handling this be surprising? I mean, if Paris wasn’t involved at all, it is doubtful this story would get any recognition in the press at all

    I’m actually surprised at how little the article that Scalzi linked focused on the effect on Paris Hilton.

    Patrick M.: My question is why are all the billionaires(Gates, Winfrey, Hilton) donating their money to African nations? I’m not saying that it isn’t a good cause, but what is it about these causes that draws them? Less rules, maybe?

    Greater need, most likely. Even the poorest Americans are well off compared to many people in certain countries in Africa.

  32. Have a look at the health issues page at the Carter Center website to get an idea of the staggeringly awful health problems that some countries in Africa face notwithstanding the availability of relatively inexpensive remedial meaures. (Guinea worm disease is particularly horrifying.)

  33. Can someone give me some insight into how print and online media determine what kinds of stories attract people? Even though some people are attracted to stories about Paris Hilton, I’d like believe that more Americans are disgusted by her behavior and would not actively seek out an article just because it talks about Paris. But maybe there is data out there that blows away my beliefs on this.

  34. I hate myself for doing this, but I think I will defend Paris Hilton. Don’t ask why.

    First, she will not be left begging in the streets; she is a trust fund baby and I heard the trust fund is somewhere in the $250 million vicinity. Unless the law of trusts is radically different in Barron’s vicinity than everywhere else in the common law world, he can’t touch it as it has (essentially) already been given away.

    Second, she has made a fair bit of money pimping her own image and charging for her appearances. Frankly it takes a special kind of idiot to pay Paris Hilton money to show up at their party to give the party cachet. However if someone wanted to pay me money (like say the $100,000.00 they pay Paris) to show up to their party, I would take the money. Why should I begrudge Paris this. The same goes for paying for her image on your product etc. If someone wants to pay Paris for being Paris, I ain’t going to begrudge her that; idiot’s deserve to be parted from their money.

    Having said that, would I want to spend an hour with Paris. No. The only thing that I would be remotely interested in doing with her would take about 5 minutes; I would be genuinely stuck for something to talk about with her for the remaining 55 minutes.


    P.S. Good on Barron for giving away 97% of his fortune to help with poverty in Africa. Everyone really should do something like this with their fortune, especially if their kids are grown and established.

  35. However, anything that means Paris Hilton is going to have to work for a living is good news in my book.

    Sorry, but 3% of 2300 million is still more money than she’s likely to ever need — or you and I are ever likely to see, either in a lump sum or accumulated over our respective lifetimes.

  36. The Gates Foundation doesn’t operate in just Africa (which takes about 15 seconds to confirm in this day and age). In fact their only non-US office is in Delhi.

    Rather than throwing money at countries they target specific problems with pre-prepared angles of attack. A friend of mine who works at the CDC in Atlanta has long been absolutely gobsmacked with the way that they have transformed the way public health issues are treated.

  37. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it is a bad thing that they spend money in places other than the US and especially when it is health related. I’m just curious. When they say they are building schools, sure they are needed there, but our educational system certainly needs help to.

    I’m just curious if it is because they can control more in these other countries or don’t get tied up by as much bureaucracy. I’m sure they do good either way/ where ever they do their thing .

  38. I thought us going to hell was a given. Why is there a part # for it?

    As my best friend states, if there is a hell, we will definitely have to find each other. Because there is no doubt that both of us are going.

  39. “When they say they are building schools, sure they are needed there, but our educational system certainly needs help to.”
    Not to repeat what Mike said but quick googling will show that the Gates Foundation does spend money on American schools.

  40. No surprise that it was MSNBC. They have not been a credible news organization for some time. Unfortunately, NBC made just as blatant show of warped priorities when they ignored the Bhutto assassination in favor of light features during the Today show this morning.

    In both cases it’s a triumph of sales and marketing over substance. I’m not sure that any of the old line networks actually employ journalists any more.

  41. Bill Beeman:

    Amen, brother. Olbermann and Abrams and those other losers at the Peacock should go back to J-school. Or at least pay attention to professionals who can do it right. Right? Right.

    Take Murdoch’s News Corp., for example. They serve the news straight up. See how The New York Post covered the same story: Paris Stiffed. Oh. Wait. That’s no good. Well, the Post has admittedly been in decline since Alexander Hamilton founded it.

    Let’s try a more august News Corp. property. In fact, let’s just get out of the US altogether. The Times of London. How much more staid can you get? See: Trust Benefits from Judgment of Paris.

    Hang on.

    Aw, newspapers are a dying medium anyway. Right? Right. The future is convergence. I’ll bet the web site of a cable channel hit the right tone. Bingo! FoxNews’ headline is Barron Hilton, Hotel Magnate, to Leave Bulk of Fortune to Charity. That’s more like it. Let’s read the lede: “LOS ANGELES — Poor Paris. Poor Nikki.”

    Okay, forget that. You’re gold regarding the Today show. I mean, even though Reuter’s moved the story that Bhutto was merely injured at 8:30 a.m. EST (according to my news reader) when Today was already half over, they should have had the foresight to be carrying her speech live. Am I right?

  42. Bill Beeman @ 47

    K.O. on MSNBC came off his vacation to do an interesting hour piece on the Bhutto assassination.

  43. Uh, she’s not getting 3% of all of her grandfather’s fortune. I find it funny that even her critics and those who wish her ill forget she’s not the only person of importance. This is her GRANDFATHER’s fortune. So the inheritance will probably be doled out between her father, her uncles/aunts (however many there are) any cousins she has, and her sister. She STILL probably won’t have to work for a living. But it’s not nearly as much as people are thinking it is.

  44. As noted, we don’t know that Barron isn’t leaving that other 3% to his chaffeur, and none of the Hilton clan is going on the dole if they don’t get a piece of it.

  45. Patrick M,

    The Gates foundation does help American schools. I believe many of the computers in my mom’s elementary school were provided by Gates Foundation money. So the schools (or her school at least) actually saw a tangible benefit from his donation.

    And as far as other countries (Africa or wherever) IIRC what the Gates Foundation is doing is addressing public health problems that fly under the radar and are not address by American corporations (because they can’ make money off those treatments). So they’re providing treatments and products that are going where they are needed.

    IIRC that is.

  46. ” In fact their [Gates Foundation] only non-US office is in Delhi.”

    It might be the office they use to deal with Indian pharmaceutical companies that supply cheap drugs.

  47. It’d be fun if Hilton left the remaining 3% to his heirs in such a way that they had to fight over it, thus depleting their own fortunes.

    Andrew wrote: “First, she will not be left begging in the streets; she is a trust fund baby and I heard the trust fund is somewhere in the $250 million vicinity.”

    I can’t see Paris Hilton having a trust fund bigger than 10% of her grandfather’s fortune, and almost as big as father’s own net worth.

    More likely the $250 million came from someone counting Paris’ father’s wealth as her own.

  48. @55: once again it’s easy to make more informed guesses, such as that Delhi would be where they run their subcontinental programs for polio, AIDS, and leishmaniasis

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