Haroldson Lafayette Hunt was a Texas oil tycoon who had a few quirks. Namely he was a bigamist, having three families at once. He split his fortune among the families prior to his death in 1974.

HUnt

One of those who received a split of this fortune was Ray Lee Hunt, a majority owner and chairman of Hunt Consolidated Inc., a Dallas-based company that is the 10th-largest closely held oil producer in the U.S. Hunt Consolidated Inc. also maintains a number of holdings in Iraq, Peru, and Yemen, and Bloomberg estimates his net worth at $8.6 billion.

This was a big family, one of many more billionaires with interesting names. But two of Ray Lee Hunt’s half-brothers really jump out at those who remember the 1980’s and the silver trade.

Owing to the fact that gold trading was barred by the U.S government until 1977, William Herbert Hunt was once one of the wealthiest men on Earth along with his brother Nelson Bunker Hunt, and to a lesser extent Lamar Hunt. The first two at one point owned 195 million ounces of silver, 60% of the U.S. market in the 1970s.

As all bubbles have a tendency to do, the silver bubble burst in March of 1980. But it burst with the two brothers owning 15% of the world’s silver.

“For six days late in March 1980 it appeared to government officials, Wall Street and the public at large that a default by a single family on its obligations in the plummeting silver market might seriously disrupt the U.S. financial system,” the Securities and Exchange Commision wrote.

To make a long story short, and it’s a really long story. What followed was a series of lawsuits that saw William Herbert seeking a shelter in the storm through bankruptcy.

Well, he’s back. He’s a billionaire again, a billionaire from The Bakken. The Bakken is a geological formation covering North Dakota as well as parts of South Dakota, Montana and Saskatchewan.

In October, he sold 43 percent of the North Dakota petroleum assets owned by his closely held Petro-Hunt LLC for $1.45 billion to Houston-based Halcon Resources Corp. (HK).

By so doing/selling, Bloomberg estimates his present net worth at just north or $4 billion.

It’s easy to forget that the Bakken may become the largest oil producing field in the world over the next 30 years.

“To put things in perspective, with current production at about 700,000 barrels a day, that is almost the size of Qatar’s oil production for the entire country,” said Christian O’Neill, Senior Energy Analyst with Bloomberg Industries in Princeton, New Jersey.

While not quite a “rags to riches” story it’s nice to see people getting a second chance after their high-wire act of risk led to destruction just over 30 years ago.

This report owes its gratitude to a story by Brendan Coffey in a piece he wrote for Bloomberg News yesterday.

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