Thursday, May 12, 2011

Gladys Frost v Howard Hughes

Gladys Thomas Frost from Swansea had a bone to pick with Howard Hughes - he owed her about £10m quid. Mrs Frost believed that she had been cheated out of a family inheritance in the form of a trust fund set up by her great grandfather David Thomas. He had emigrated to the US from Neath in 1839 and amassed a vast fortune in the iron industry.

Mrs Frost reckoned her share of the fortune had gone to Howard Hughes who was also a descendent of the Iron King. So convinced was she of her claim that in 1959 she sold her Swansea home and moved to New York to fight her case in the courts. US lawyers were paid to investigate the Hughes connection but trustees of the fund would not allow her claim. After three years she returned to Wales completely penniless.

In 1973 it was reported that multi-millionaire Hughes, now a neurotic, unkempt, long-fingernailed recluse, had moved into the Inn on the Park Hotel in London. Gladys, along with her steelworker husband, travelled to London from Swansea to picket the hotel. She carried a placard bearing the message: 'HOWARD IF YOU REPUDIATE MY STATEMENT THEN SUE ME AND THE TRUTH WILL OUT (see pic).

She wrote letters to Hughes. In one she said: "Please see me. I have come all the way from Swansea." But hotel staff denied that he was even on the premises (he was actually in a suite on the ninth floor). In the end they promised to forward her notes to Hughes's bankers. Mrs Frost said: "I'm obviously disappointed not to have met him face to face and given him a piece of my mind. But the trip wasn't wasted. I am hoping now that he will be so shaken he will be shamed into getting in touch." He didn't.

Howard Hughes died in 1976. Inevitably there was a great deal of interest in who would be the beneficiaries of his will. Mrs Frost unfortunately didn't receive a single penny. She died in 1982. A year later the much contested $2.5 billion Hughes estate was split between 22 of his cousins.