John Hunstman Sr - an industry titan

Source: ECN

2018/02/15

Jon Huntsman Sr was truly a titan of the chemical industry, and more importantly, of humanity with his philanthropic efforts.

Huntsman’s entrepreneurial, business and philanthropic achievements are well documented in the countless tributes in all kinds of publications following his passing on 2 February 2018 at the age of 80. So I’ll relate some personal experiences.

When I started as financial editor in 1997 for Chemical Market Reporter, one of the predecessor publications to ICIS Chemical Business, Huntsman was always gracious in providing access to himself as the CEO.

Huntsman spoke very candidly and openly – quite the departure from the typical guarded talks with CEOs shadowed by their media relations people.

He would keep an open mind, asking about your views on the industry as well as other topics, such as politics. He also was not shy about giving his opinion, including, or especially, when he disagreed with you.

Jon Huntsman Sr

A tireless advocate for the chemical industry, Huntsman would rail against lack of understanding about the sector on the part of government, and put pressure on associations to connect with policy makers.

Some years ago, at Huntsman’s annual breakfast event at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers’ (AFPM, but formerly NPRA at the time) International Petrochemical Conference (IPC) in San Antonio, Texas, Huntsman Sr recalled a recent conversation with then-US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, who apparently did not know that natural gas was a key feedstock for the US chemical industry.

The Huntsman breakfast is a fixture at the AFPM’s IPC and an increasingly popular event. Peter Huntsman, president and CEO of Huntsman Corp, carries on the legacy, as he gives candid views on the chemical markets, and also on global politics and whatever other macro trends strike his interest.

However, the highlight last year was the surprise arrival of Jon Huntsman Sr to talk about the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Located on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, the nonprofit founded and funded by Jon Huntsman Sr and his wife Karen, has been dedicated to the treatment and cure of cancer in all its forms for over 20 years.

As spry as ever, Huntsman Sr expressed great enthusiasm for the works and progress of the Huntsman Cancer Institute. He called out chemical industry CEOs – some even by name who were in attendance – to give generously for a great cause. Years earlier, Huntsman Sr had choice words for wealthy folks who reserve charitable donations only to their wills: “What they’re really saying is: ‘If I could live forever, I wouldn’t give any of it away’.”

Jon Huntsman Sr leaves an indelible mark on the global chemical industry, and with his huge charitable contributions, on humanity itself.