The Huntsmans: Inside an American dynasty

by | Jun. 18, 2010

Mormons We Know

Jon Meade Huntsman Sr. brought us Styrofoam egg containers before his 30th birthday and the famed Big Mac "clamshell" sandwich container by his 40th, somehow finding time in between to serve in Nixon's White House. By middle age his close circle of friends included Margaret Thatcher, Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew, and Dick Cheney. Along the way he raised nine children: His eldest -- a former Utah governor -- is now the U.S. ambassador to Beijing, while son No. 2 succeeded him as CEO of Huntsman Corp., a global chemical company with about $8 billion in revenue.

Those accomplishments alone would qualify the industrialist for a place in the annals of entrepreneurship, and indeed, today he is one of the world's richest self-made men, reportedly with a net worth of more than $1 billion. But what makes Huntsman, 73, a true American original is the unparalleled tenacity with which he built -- and repeatedly rescued -- his business empire, mortgaging his own homes or putting up his own money (along with bondholders') along the way. Just two years ago, long after he'd retired as CEO of his eponymous company, he personally went to battle with private equity lion Leon Black, whose Apollo Management backed out of a deal to buy Huntsman Corp. -- and won.

The company celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, and Jon Sr. and his family agreed to a rare series of interviews to tell the Huntsman story: the rise and fall of the corporation and life inside an iconic family dynasty that's one part Marriott (MAR, Fortune 500) (another business clan with Utah roots) and one part Kennedy (only Republican).

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