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Bizarre habits of nine obsessive CEOs

Howard Hughes

Howard Hughes (© Courtesy Everett Collection)
  • Donald Trump, Walt Disney and Marissa Mayer (© Rex Features; Daily Herald Archive; Stephen Lam/Files/Reuters)
  • Walt Disney (© Daily Herald Archive)
  • Michael S. Jeffries, chairman and CEO, Abercrombie & Fitch, on Jan. 13, 2009. (© Mark Lennihan/File/AP Photo)
  • Howard Hughes (© Courtesy Everett Collection)
  • Donald Trump (© Rex Features)
  • Frank Rosenthal on Sept. 8, 1961. (© File/AP Photo)
  • Marissa Mayer, Yahoo (© Stephen Lam/Files/Reuters)
  • The eccentric Serbo-Croatian inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla contributed to a wide range of inventions but also became the model of a mad scientist. (© Getty Images)
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Howard Hughes

When Time magazine names you second in its list of the Top 10 Most Reclusive Celebrities, you've probably wrestled with more than your share of demons. And when it comes to bat-crazy billionaires, Howard Hughes may set the bar.

For the accomplished entrepreneur, innovator, engineer and filmmaker, multiple talents also, unfortunately, meant multiple psychological disorders. Throughout his 71 years, Hughes produced and directed Oscar-winning films, founded Hughes Aircraft and acquired Trans World Airlines and RKO Pictures. He had a finger in just about every pie in America from the mid-1920s to the mid-1960s and was almost single-handedly responsible for the city of Las Vegas as we know it.

But he also likely suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder and symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia.

Phobic about germs, Hughes delegated his compulsive habits to employees. Servants were forced to wrap his spoon handles in tissue paper and cellophane. Retrieving his hearing aid from the bathroom cabinet was a process that required no less than 45 tissues as well as a hand-washing with a brand-new bar of soap.

Hughes' mental illnesses worsened with age and have been blamed at least in part on trauma he sustained from near-fatal crashes during test flights of his own self-built planes.

Toward the end of his life, he hid from public life inside expensive hotel penthouses and spent four months in a dim studio screening room where he subsisted on chocolate bars and milk and stored his urine inside the empty bottles.

When he died in 1976 of kidney failure — triggered by a combination of dehydration and a daily diet of 20 to 30 aspirin — he was an unkempt and emaciated 94-pound billionaire without the presence of mind to leave a proper will.

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