Huntsman's charity sets him apart

Published: Tuesday, May 15 2001 12:00 a.m. MDT

"We are getting closer and closer to the point where I can sell some or all of my business holdings," Huntsman said in the second of two long-ranging interviews. Huntsman said he owns personally about 66 percent of Huntsman Corp., the rest held by his children.

But he gives no time frame for redirecting his efforts. And, in fact, Huntsman Corp. last month made two major purchases, buying a division of Dow Chemical and a European petrochemical firm. Huntsman Corp.'s holdings are now 60 percent outside of the United States and much of its day-to-day operations are run out of its Brussels offices, where son Peter Huntsman has relocated to be company president and CEO.

"As soon as the economy turns around, as soon as the chemical industries that I'm in get stronger . . . as we pull out of (a slumping economy) and move forward I'd like very much to convert my plants and operating equipment — people think that because you have some affluence that it's in cash — in order to do the things I'd like to do — build the research centers and do more in areas to help those who are suffering with disease, or lack of education, poverty or homelessness," Huntsman said, naming a few of his charitable endeavors.

Following in the footsteps of Carnegie, Rockefeller and Armand Hammer will take money. "And it takes large amounts of money," Huntsman said. But he's eager for the challenge.

And for those who think Huntsman comes late in life to such concerns, think again, says Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson. Huntsman has always gathered friends around him who may, on the surface, seem quite dissimilar.

Anderson, a liberal Democrat and non-Mormon, is an example. Anderson, a noted trial attorney before entering politics, was Huntsman's personal lawyer in the early 1980s. They've stayed close ever since.

"I was impressed with Jon from the first, when he told me he lost respect for Richard Nixon (Huntsman served as a special assistant to then-President Nixon in the early 1970s) when he learned that Nixon had not given anything to charity one year he was president," Anderson said.

He got to know Huntsman in the early years of Huntsman Chemical, when the young firm was noted for making plastic egg cartons and Big Mac hamburger containers. "Yet even then it was clear to me that Jon's real motivation in his work and accumulation of wealth was to give much of what he has to make people's lives better," Anderson said.

Said Huntsman about his desire to help others: "It's a very, very deep-seated situation that's very hard to explain to a person who doesn't understand that our sole mission and objective in life is to lift the hopes and dreams of others."

In fact, when in town Huntsman often visits his cancer institute and sits, talking, with patients as they get their doses of chemotherapy.

His charity work "sounds to some people artificial. But I don't care. That doesn't matter to me one iota what others think. It's what I believe."

E-MAIL: bbjr@desnews.com ; lucy@desnews.com

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