Blackfoot native Jon Huntsman Sr., philanthropist and global business mogul, dies at 80
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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah businessman, billionaire and philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. died Friday at age 80, according to his assistant, Pam Bailey.
KSL.com reports Huntsman Sr. left his mark on the business world with the global company Huntsman Corporation, now headed by his son Peter. Huntsman Sr. was involved with the invention of the first plastic foam egg carton, and also founded Huntsman Container Corporation that was made famous by creating the McDonald’s clamshell containers.
Early in his career, Huntsman purchased businesses with money borrowed through Huntsman Chemical, founded in 1982, according to Forbes. He eventually purchased 34 companies, including Texaco’s petrochemicals operation for $1.06 billion in 1994.
The Blackoot native was the father of Jon Huntsman, Jr., former governor of Utah, 2012 Republican Party presidential hopeful and current U.S. Ambassador to Russia.
The billionaire philanthropist battled a painful inflammatory disorder called polymyalgia rheumatica.
He also survived four bouts with cancer. Huntsman Sr.’s mother, father and stepmother each died from cancer. Those ordeals led him to found the Huntsman Cancer Institute and secure lucrative donation funds to that center through the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. His goal was to completely eradicate the disease.
In 2013, Forbes magazine listed him at No. 22 on its list of 50 Philanthropists Who Have Given Away the Most Money. Huntsman Sr. said he grew up in a poor household.
“I never forget those times, and they leave certain scars in your memory bank and in your heart that you don’t want others to replicate,” he told the Deseret News at the time.
His real-time net worth was $1.21 billion, Forbes said.
Huntsman Sr. also served as an Area Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1996 to 2011.
In an emailed statement, the First Presidency of the Church said they grieved with the Huntsman family.
“We honor Jon as a cherished husband, father and friend, esteemed as a leader for his exceptional capacity, commitment, philanthropy and service throughout the world,” the First Presidency said in a statement. “We express our love to Karen, to their children and family. Jon’s legacy of faithful leadership, generosity and goodness stands as a beacon for the entire Huntsman family and many others throughout the world.”
In a statement, Senator Orrin Hatch called Huntsman Sr. “a committed public servant, a visionary businessman, and perhaps the greatest philanthropist our state has ever known.”
“Utah has lost a lion today,” Hatch said.
Funeral plans for Huntsman Sr. have not yet been announced.