Who is Howard Hughes and what did he have to do with DIRECTV?

If you know the name at all, you probably think of a crazy man who lived in total seclusion, or maybe you know few bits of trivia. Howard Robard Hughes, Jr., was the driving force behind the largest wooden aircraft ever to fly, the biggest-budget movie of his day, and some well-appreciated engineering feats in the lingerie department. He was investigated as a pornographer and war profiteer, and he was one of the top celebrities of his day.

He’s also, in some ways at least, the father of DIRECTV.

Howard Hughes was impossibly rich, along the lines of Bill Gates or Warren Buffett today. He is rumored to have bought an entire hotel when he was told that the current management wouldn’t rent him a whole floor full of rooms, and that didn’t do much damage to his bank account. He had money in aircraft, in movies, and even in toolmaking. One of his minor ventures was the Howard Hughes Medical Institute which he used as a tax shelter. At one point, Mr. Hughes transferred the assets of Hughes Aircraft to the institute, and after Mr. Hughes’ death an investigation took place leading Hughes Aircraft to be sold to General Motors.

GM reorganized Hughes and created divisions for satellite technology and network systems, which in turn led to the creation of a new subsidiary… DIRECTV. GM held on to its share in DIRECTV until 2003, effectively ending the company’s affiliation with Mr. Hughes’ legacy.

And … now you know.