On Oct. 12, 1949, Conrad Hilton, who founded the company now known as Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. (HLT) , realized a lifelong goal: the acquisition of the Waldorf-Astoria's management rights. It would not be until 1972, only seven years before Conrad's death, that his company would assume total control of the Waldorf, which, the billionaire once wrote on a photograph, is "The Greatest of Them All."
Nearly 65 years to the day, Hilton's company, long beyond his and his family's control, sold off the Waldorf in a $1.95 billion deal with China's Anbang Insurance Group Co. Ltd., retaining operational duties for the next century in what would come to be called the most expensive hotel deal in history. The management of Hilton's legacy, right down to its crown jewel, may be the crowning achievement of another outspoken billionaire, Steven Schwarzman, Blackstone Group LP's CEO.
The company said its mega-payday wouldn't be used to lavish cash on the sponsor that took it public, but instead to acquire new properties — specifically "in one or more transactions as part of a like-kind exchange under Internal Revenue Code Section 1031," it revealed in its announcement.
Blackstone (BX) didn't take a nickel from Hilton's late 2013 initial public offering; the paper value of its 76.4% stake in the company was worth nearly $20 billion after pricing just past the midpoint of its expected range nearly a year ago. It was the biggest hotel IPO in history.