Howard Hughes's death in 1976 exposed a unique American horror story. Hughes wandered six years in exile in a self-constructed private asylum, the victim of such gross neglect that neither he nor his keepers dared disclose him to public view. When he died, he weighed ninety-two pounds and was indistinguishable from a street derelict, dehydrated and ravaged by drugs.
There was no discoverable will, and thousands of people became involved in a bitter struggle to claim his fortune. There were those who lied, fantasized, and forged in an effort to seize a prize that, in the opinion of most contemporary financial experts, was worth $2 billion. More recently, however, Hughes's worth at the time of his death has been shown to be in excess of $6 billionapproximately three times J. Paul Getty's wealth at his death.
Among the motley of contenders fighting for The Money were two powerful groups. On one side was Will Lummis, a soft-voiced conservative lookalike cousin of the billionaire, and twenty other Hughes cousins claiming legal heirship. On the other side were the people who had managed the empire of the phobia-ridden Hughes during his last six years. They were headed by an executive triumvirate: Chester Davis, Hughes's aggressive and abrasive chief counsel; Frank W. "Bill" Gay, his mousy, low-profile executive vice president; and Nadine Henley, a plump, peroxided one-time secretary.
When Hughes died, both Texas and California claimed him as their taxable own, setting off years of litigation that went several times to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The final irony of Hughes and The Money was that the fight for his fortune demolished the privacy it had bought for him at great cost in his later years. The secrets came flooding forth as the men who had hidden him and those who ran his businesses were put under oath and required to talk.
This remarkable storyrevealed here for the first timeis told by two of the most knowledgeable "Hughes watchers." James R. Phelan, for years one of the most respected independent investigative journalists in this country, was the first to reveal the true story of Hughes's final days in the bestselling Howard Hughes: The Hidden Years. Lewis Chester is a former editor of Insight, The Sunday Times (London) investigative team, and is the coauthor of Hoax: The Inside Story of the Howard Hughes -Clifford Irving Affair.
Based on interviews and a massive collection of court documents, sworn testimony, and depositions, The Money tells the bizarreand truly almost unbelievablestory of the palace struggles that ensued when the emperor died and a contentious cast of contenders, a collection of characters rivaling those on TV's Dallas, fought over his billions.