SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A $1.5 billion personal windfall from a company that started life leveraged to the hilt.
It's not a bad payoff for Utah industrialist Jon Huntsman Sr., who said Tuesday he sold chemicals conglomerate Hunjtsman Corp. to Basell, a holding of U.S. industrialist Len Blavatnik's Access Industries, in a cash deal worth $5.6 billion.
Huntsman said the sale will yield nearly $1.5 billion cash for his family — and that he transferred $600 million worth of stock on Monday to the Huntsman Foundation, devoted to fighting cancer.
Huntsman said he expects to remain chairman and his son, Peter, president and chief executive of Huntsman Corp. under new ownership.
''It's just going to have new shareholders. All the other players will remain the same,'' Jon Huntsman, 70, said from London, where Blavatnik has a home and company operations.
''I really feel my best years are ahead. I look forward to building additional businesses and doing everything possible to raise additional capital for the fight against cancer,'' he said.
The son of an Idaho school teacher, Huntsman Sr. won scholarships to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and later joined Dow Chemical, leaving that company in 1970 to amass a conglomerate of companies whose products included the clamshell container for the Big Mac.
Huntsman initially was turned away in 1973 when he tried to offer the clamshell idea to McDonald's corp., waiting two days for an appointment at McDonald's headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., that never came.
''I got on plane out of frustration and flew to Miami, where one of my friends set up a meeting with Burger King. They were a bit skeptical but said they had a ham-and-cheese sandwich that wasn't selling well. They said, 'We don't have much to lose on that so we'll buy your product for all of our ham-and-cheese sandwiches,'' Huntsman recalled.
''When McDonald's saw that, they went ballistic and asked why I didn't go to them first. I said I did go to them first. They asked me to make a special package for McDonald's. The first Big Mac container was round, but it turned into a square box still used in other parts of the world,'' he said.
McDonald's abandoned the container in the 1990s in favor of more environmentally friendly packaging, but the Huntsman companies continued to grow by producing materials such as ethylene, propylene and polyurethanes used in a wide variety of products, from automotive materials to adhesives and paint.
Jon Huntsman Sr. took over his first plant in Belpre, Ohio, in 1983. It was an old Royal Dutch Shell polystyrene plant ''that he leveraged to the hilt,'' operating it at full capacity with 200 workers, his son said.
''I did OK,'' said Huntsman Sr., who made enough money to buy other distressed plants at discount.
Huntsman Corp. shares rose $5.31, or 28.1 percent, to end at $24.21 Tuesday.
Under the terms of the agreement, Basell, a Dutch company will acquire all of Huntsman's outstanding common stock for $25.25 per share in cash. The price represents a 34 percent premium over the company's Monday closing stock price of $18.90.
Based on the company's 221.9 million outstanding shares, the deal is worth about $5.6 billion. The companies placed the total value of the transaction at about $9.6 billion including the assumption of debt.
The deal, which is subject to approval by Huntsman shareholders, and by European regulators, was unanimously approved by the boards of both Basell and Huntsman.
Entities controlled by the private equity firm MatlinPatterson and the Huntsman family, who collectively own 57 percent of Huntsman's common stock, approve the acquisition, the companies said.
Huntsman Corp. has shopped itself around for some time but talks over the sale of the Salt Lake-based company collapsed last year.
Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. sold his shares of stock and stepped down as chairman and chief executive of Huntsman Family Holdings Co., the controlling shareholder in a $9.5 billion string of chemical manufacturing companies, after taking office in 2005.
The acquisition is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2007.
In 2006, Basell and Huntsman posted combined revenue of more than $26 billion and employed about 20,900 workers.