Howard Hughes Companies




  • During the Howard Hughes era, RKO pictures produced movies such as Scarface in 1932 and Hell's Angel's in 1930.
  • Scarface was loosely based upon the gang life of Al Capone who was nicknamed "Scarface." The 1983 remake with Al Pacino is based on Hughes's production.
  • Hell's Angels was based on the WWI combat pilots.
  • During production Hughes used his aeronautical skills to design stunts for the dogfighting scenes.
  • When he hired actual WWI pilots they refused to fly for the final stunt scene.
  • Hughes performed the stunt himself, he successfully performed the stunt but crashed, escaping with minor injuries.
  • It's A Wonderful Life was filmed on RKO properties
  • RKO pictures business began to decline as a result of Hughe's management style.
  • Hughes anti-communist politics became an obsession and he ended up laying off nearly 3/4 of his work force.
  • Hughes owned RKO from 1948-1955

Escalation of Commitment:
  • tendency to continue to support a failing course of action
  • Exhibited in RKO's decline
Autocratic Style:
  • leadership style in which the leader uses strong, directive, controlling actions to enforce the rules, regulations, activities, and relationships in the work environment
  • laying off 3/4 of the RKO workforce based on suspicion of communist politics in his employees
Adaptive/Strong Culture:
  • an organizational culture that encourages confidence and risk taking among employees
  • an organizational culture with a consensus on the values that drive the company and with an intensity that is recognizable even to outsiders
  • performed his own stunts on set and risked his life crashing in the process
  • by effectively beginning his own communist witch hunt amongst his employees he very publicly exhibited and emphasized his own values and beliefs which gave RKO an identity.
  • In his movie productions he was widely criticized for their controversial nature
  • Most likely attributed to Hughe's eccentric mindset the 1943 film "The Outlaw", crudely showcased actress Jane Russell's breasts on the movie poster and throughout the movie.
  • Flew his own planes in an effort to prove not only the planes capabilities but also his own.
Loss of Individuality:
  • social process in which the individual group member loses self awareness and its accompanying sense of accountability, inhibition, and responsibility for an individual.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Ecentric behavior
  • Drugs
  • His upper management and executives attempted to push him out of ownership of both TWA and RKO

1939, Hughes bought TWA fo $7 million

Trans World Airline:

  • Always the eccentric thrill-seeker Hughes crashed his own plane into two houses nearly killing himself in the process
  • Hughes bought TWA for $7million and took control of the company.
  • Hughes approached competitor Lockheed to design and build the revolutionary Constellation which TWA purchased the first 40 airliners..
  • The U.S. federal court ordered Hughes to sell his shares of TWA in 1966, sighting concerns of conflict of interest. At the time Hughes had dual ownership of both TWA and Hughes Aircraft.
  • Hughes sold TWA and made $547 million


  • 1953, Hughes founded the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in Maryland.
  • At the age of 19 Hughes wrote in his will that a portion of his estate would be used to set up a medical institute in his name
  • Hughes invested all of his stock in Hughes Aircraft into HHMI
  • Hughes seamlessly turned his HA from areospace/defense contractor into a tax-exempt charity
  • While avoiding income taxes, the investment silenced his executives who had demanded stock in HA as reimbursement; proving once again the strong culture perspective that Hughes wanted to exhibit to his employees and outsiders

Leonardo DiCaprio depicts Howard Hughes in the 2004 film The Aviator

Back to Homepage
Back to Top