Caroline Rose Hunt

The Scotsman, November 17, 2018 | Go to article overview

Caroline Rose Hunt


Caroline Rose Hunt, heiress, hotelier and philanthropist. Born: 8 January, 1923 in El Dorado, Arkansas. Died: 13 November, 2018 in Dallas, Texas, aged 95.

C aroline Rose Hunt, the Texas oil heiress who quietly diversified her investments and became one of the nation's wealthiest women in the 1980s after two billionaire brothers tried to corner the world's silver market and lost fortunes when the price collapsed, died on Tuesday in Dallas. She was 95.

Her death, at a hospice facility, was confirmed by a family spokesman, Andy Stern.

Unassuming, gracious, caring more about raising her children and tomatoes than about market strategies, Caroline Hunt was content to let advisers manage her affairs as her brothers Nelson Bunker Hunt, known as Bunker, and William Herbert Hunt, known as Herbert, corralled a third to half of the world's deliverable silver in a dizzying 1980 roller-coaster ride from glut to debacle.

While her brothers hemorrhaged money and plunged into years of lawsuits, fines, damage claims and bankruptcy proceedings, Hunt, who inherited about $600 million, enlarged her portfolio of oil, gas, timber and real estate to $1.3 billion by venturing successfully into apparel, charter helicopter and smallplane services, shopping centers, office complexes and luxury hotels in the United States, Europe and Asia.

In Texas, which prided itself on larger-than-life stories, the eccentricities of the Hunt family - the oilman HL Hunt fathered 15 children with three women over 35 years - had been a high-stakes soap opera for decades. The patriarch, a storied wildcatter and perhaps the world's richest man when he died in 1974, had left the bulk of his fortune in separate trusts to his children by his first wife: Caroline, Bunker, Herbert, Lamar, Margaret and Haroldson, who had been mentally ill since 1942. (A seventh sibling died in infancy.) While her brothers caught the public eye with financial high-wire acts in silver, oil and sugar, Caroline Hunt led a relatively normal life. She attended college, married a Second World War pilot, raised five children, wrote two cookbooks and a novel, and became a philanthropist and a Presbyterian Church deacon. She and her financial advisers made investment decisions, but she left day-today operations to executives whose decision-making was based on Christian principles.

"If she has had any influence on the management of her enormous wealth," The New York Times reported in 1986, "it has been to instill a certain ethos among the people in charge - an insistence on integrity and propriety that has been markedly absent from her brothers' affairs."

The big gamble by Bunker and Herbert was trying to corner silver, much of it bought on margin or with borrowed money. When the bubble burst in 1980, their holdings plunged in two months to a $1.7 billion debt from a $7 billion value.

Years later they emerged from bankruptcy as millionaires, though no longer fabulously wealthy. …

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