It's been said that one entrepreneurial-minded person founds a business on passion and drive, the second generation builds the business, the third generation works there because their family expects them to do so, and the fourth generation doesn’t know anything about the business and sells the “stock” their daddy and granddaddy owned. In the case of the Hunt family fortune, the first great grandchild to legendary oilman H.L. Hunt---Albert Hill III---sued the caretakers of the fortune and found himself disinherited. It's a shame, because he could have been the annointed one had he positioned himself and not felt so entitled. In Sydney Sheldon's novel "Master of the Game," a diamond empire is created through risk and malice and the daughter of the founder spends her entire life trying to groom an heir apparent with no success and great heartache. Such is the case with the Hunts. Once considered the world's richest man, Hunt Petroleum founder H.L. Hunt started by taking poker winnings some 80 years ago and betting them on an oil well. Since his death in 1974, his nephew Tom Hunt, now in his 80s, has run Hunt Petroleum and is the keeper of the family trusts that control the flow of wealth to the heirs. First great grandson Al Hill III, now in his late 30s, could have been the prince-in-waiting had he played his cards right. Instead, he partied too hard in his trust-fund-supported youth and later became the family whistle-blower over perceived injustices and conflicts of interest within the family hierarchy. He is trying to have his uncle Tom removed as chairman and trustee. Tom, once H.L.'s right-hand-man, whether innocent or guilty of such accusations, likely saw no heirs-in-waiting capable of captaining the family ship, and decided to sell the assets to Fort Worth neighbor XTO Energy and disperse the funds. Hunt heirs will get to participate in the upside by retaining 23 million shares of XTO as part of the deal. Al III, unfortunately for him, lawsuited himself out of his piece of the fortune through his disinheritance. Imagine what an MBA and BS in Petro Engineering might have gotten Al III. King in waiting for the family fortune. If you've got complaints about how the ship is being steered, it's much more effective to be captain than pirate. He could have apprenticed his way to the top all these years and then had the control to correct any of the injustices he is now suing over. Here's my advice to Al III: Drop the lawsuit and the attitude and humbly ask forgiveness of the family. While it's too late to save the heirloom assets (XTO Energy is going to get them regardless of the lawsuit), that action will save your piece of the proceeds and the monthly trust dividends. Then do what great granddad H.L. did---take your stake and bet it on a play (Haynesville, Muskwa, Marcellus, maybe even the Pierre sound like good odds). A new Hunt legacy could be yours to create. Steve Toon, Editor, A&D Watch; Contributing Editor, Oil and Gas Investor; www.OilandGasInvestor.com; email@example.com
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