Nelson Bunker Hunt

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Nelson Bunker Hunt
Born(1926-02-22)February 22, 1926
DiedOctober 21, 2014(2014-10-21) (aged 88)
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
  • Oil, mining
  • Racehorse owner
Political partyRepublican
Caroline Lewis
(m. 1951)

Nelson Bunker Hunt (February 22, 1926 – October 21, 2014) was an American oil company executive. He was a billionaire whose fortune collapsed after he and his brothers William Herbert and Lamar[1] tried to corner the world market in silver but were prevented by government intervention.[2] He was also a thoroughbred horse breeder[3] and a major sponsor of the John Birch Society.


Hunt was born in El Dorado, Arkansas, but lived most of his life in Dallas, Texas.[4] He was the son of Lyda Bunker and oil tycoon H. L. Hunt, who set up Placid Oil, once one of the biggest independent oil companies,[5] He had six siblings: Margaret Hunt Hill (1915–2007), H. L. Hunt III (1917–2005), Caroline Rose Hunt (1923–2018), Lyda Bunker Hunt (born and died in 1925), William Herbert Hunt (born 1929), and Lamar Hunt (1932–2006). He was married to Caroline Lewis Hunt of Ruston, Louisiana for 63 years until his death, and they had four children together. In October 2014, Hunt died at the age of 88. He had cancer and dementia.[1]

Business career[edit]

Hunt played a significant role in the discovery and development of the oil fields in Libya, the more established oil enterprises' stake of which were nationalized by Muammar Gaddafi in 1973.[6] This nationalization later resulted in the House of Lords decision in BP Exploration Co (Libya) v Hunt (No 2) [1983] 2 AC 352.

Hunt owned the Dallas-based Titan Resources Corporation, which is still involved in the exploration of oil in North Africa.[7] He was chairman of Hunt Exploration and Mining Company (HEMCO).[citation needed]

Silver manipulation[edit]

Beginning in the early 1970s, Hunt and his brothers William Herbert and Lamar began accumulating large amounts of silver on Comex through Brodsky and Associates. By 1979, they had nearly cornered the global market.[8] In the last nine months of 1979, the brothers profited by an estimated US$2–4 billion in silver speculation, with estimated silver holdings of 100 million troy ounces (3,100 t).[9]

Primarily because of the Hunt brothers' accumulation of the precious metal, prices of silver futures contracts and silver bullion rose from $11 an ounce in September 1979 to $50 an ounce in January 1980. Silver prices ultimately collapsed to below $11 an ounce two months later.[10] The largest single-day drop in the price of silver occurred on "Silver Thursday".[2] In February 1985 the Hunt brothers were charged "with manipulating and attempting to manipulate the prices of silver futures contracts and silver bullion during 1979 and 1980" by the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).[2]

In September 1988 the Hunt brothers filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code largely due to lawsuits incurred as a result of their silver speculation.[2]

In 1989, in a settlement with the CFTC, Nelson Bunker Hunt was fined $10 million and banned from trading in the commodity markets as a result of civil charges of conspiring to manipulate the silver market.[2] This fine was in addition to a multimillion-dollar settlement to pay back taxes, fines and interest to the Internal Revenue Service for the same period. His brother William Herbert Hunt made a similar settlement.[2]


Nelson Bunker Hunt was active in conservative political causes[11] and was a member of the Council of the John Birch Society.[4] Among the candidates he supported financially were the fervent segregationists Sen. Strom Thurmond and George Wallace.[12] Hunt played a key role in the 1968 presidential campaign in rejecting Wallace's first vice presidential choice, former Kentucky governor Happy Chandler, whom Hunt considered too moderate, and making possible the selection of Curtis LeMay. When LeMay balked at losing his salaried job if he joined the Wallace campaign, Hunt created a secret, $1 million trust fund to compensate LeMay for loss of income.[13]

Hunt mentored Zahid Bashir, former spokesman and press secretary to the Pakistani Prime Minister, in oil trading. He was one of the main sponsors of the conservative organization Western Goals Foundation, founded in 1979 by General John K. Singlaub, journalist John Rees, and Democratic Congressman from Georgia Larry McDonald. During the mid-1980s, he contributed almost half a million U.S. dollars to The National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty (NEPL),[14][15] a conservative fundraising organization later heavily implicated in the Iran–Contra affair.[16] Hunt was past Chairman of the Board of the Bible Society of Texas and the past Chairman of, and significant contributor to Campus Crusade for Christ International's "Here's Life" Campaign (1976–1980),[17][18] as well as providing a $3.5 million loan guarantee for the 1979 Campus Crusade film Jesus.[19]

Thoroughbred horse racing[edit]

In 1955, Hunt bought his first thoroughbreds and by the 1970s his breeding program had become one of the world's largest and most productive. Winner of the U.S. Eclipse Award for Outstanding Breeder in 1976, 1985, and 1987, he owned the 8,000-acre (3,200 ha) Bluegrass Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, and raced thoroughbreds in Europe and North America. Among his horses, Hunt bred or raced Vaguely Noble, Dahlia, Empery, Youth, Exceller, Trillion, Glorious Song, Dahar and Estrapade.[3]

In 1973 and 1974, Hunt was the British flat racing Champion Owner and in 1976 won The Derby with Empery.[3]

The United States National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) awarded Hunt the title of "legendary owner-breeder".[20] Overall, Hunt bred 158 stakes winners and either bred or owned 25 champions.[21]

Hunt's bankruptcy forced him to liquidate his thoroughbred operations. A 1988 dispersal sale of 580 horses at Keeneland Sales brought in $46,911,800, at that time the highest amount in the history of thoroughbred auctions.[3] In 1999, he returned to thoroughbred ownership, spending a total of $2,075,000 on 51 juveniles and yearlings. At the time he said, "At my age, I don't plan to do any breeding or buy a farm, I just want to have some fun and try to get lucky racing."[20]


  1. ^ a b McFadden, Robert D. (October 22, 2014). "Nelson Bunker Hunt, 88, Oil Tycoon With a Texas-Size Presence, Dies". New York Times. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Eichenwald, Kurt (December 21, 1989). "2 Hunts Fined And Banned From Trades". New York Times. Retrieved April 13, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d Bowen, Edward L. (2004). Legacies of the Turf: A Century of Great Thoroughbred Breeders. Lexington, KY, United States: Eclipse Press. pp. 249–262. ISBN 1-58150-117-X.
  4. ^ a b "Nelson Bunker Hunt". The John Birch Society, Inc. Retrieved October 22, 2014.
  5. ^ "Oil Baron Nelson Bunker Hunt Dies" The Guardian October 22, 2014
  6. ^ Greenwood, C. J. (1984). International Law Reports. Vol. 66. Cambridge University Press. p. 340. ISBN 0-521-46411-0.
  7. ^ McLure, Jason (August 21, 2008), "Ethiopia, U.S. Billionaire's Titan Resources Signs Oil Accord'", Bloomberg
  8. ^ Gwynne, S. C. (September 2001). "Bunker Hunt". Texas Monthly. Vol. 29, no. 9. Austin, Texas, United States: Emmis Communications Corporation. p. 78.
  9. ^ "Bunker Hunt's Comstock Lode". Time Magazine. Vol. 115, no. 2. Time Inc. January 14, 1980.
  10. ^ Masters, Michael W.; White, Adam K. (July 31, 2008). The Accidental Hunt Brothers: How Institutional Investors Are Driving Up Food And Energy Prices (PDF) (Report). LOE. p. 51. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  11. ^ Tuccille, Jerome (2004). Kingdom: The Story of the Hunt Family of Texas. Beard Books. p. 311. ISBN 1-58798-226-9.
  12. ^ Carter, Dan T. (1995). The politics of rage : George Wallace, the origins of the new conservatism, and the transformation of American politics. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 336. ISBN 0-684-80916-8. OCLC 32739924.
  13. ^ Carter, Dan T. (1995). The politics of rage : George Wallace, the origins of the new conservatism, and the transformation of American politics. New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 356–362. ISBN 0-684-80916-8. OCLC 32739924.
  14. ^ Walsh, Lawrence E. (August 4, 1993). "Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters". I: Investigations and Prosecutions. Retrieved July 5, 2008. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  15. ^ Hamilton, Lee H.; Inouye, Daniel K. (1995). Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran/Contra Affair. DIANE Publishing. pp. 93–94. ISBN 0-7881-2602-4.
  16. ^ Berke, Richard L. (April 9, 1987). "Investigators Say Group Raised $2 Million for Contra Arms Aid". New York Times. Retrieved July 5, 2008.
  17. ^ Diamond, Sara (1989). Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right. Boston, USA: South End Press. p. 53. ISBN 0-89608-361-6.
  18. ^ Harrington Watt, David (1991). A Transforming Faith: Explorations of Twentieth-century American Evangelicalism. Rutgers University Press. p. 19. ISBN 0-8135-1717-6.
  19. ^ Van Biema, David (June 30, 2003). "The Life of Jesus in 830 Languages". Time Magazine. Vol. 161, no. 26. p. 42.
  20. ^ a b "Nelson Bunker Hunt". National Thoroughbred Racing Association. May 30, 2006. Archived from the original on February 1, 2008. Retrieved April 13, 2008.
  21. ^ "John Gaines in his own words", Blood-Horse, February 14, 2005