Jon M. Huntsman is dead at 80 | February 12, 2018 Issue - Vol. 96 Issue 7 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 96 Issue 7 | p. 9 | News of The Week
Issue Date: February 12, 2018 | Web Date: February 8, 2018

Jon M. Huntsman is dead at 80

The Huntsman Corp. founder was known for his philanthropy and his personal touch
Department: Business
Keywords: Business, Huntsman, people, obituaries
Huntsman in 2006.
Credit: Alex Tullo/C&EN
A photo of Jon M. Huntsman Sr. in his office in 2006.
Huntsman in 2006.
Credit: Alex Tullo/C&EN

Jon M. Huntsman Sr., the Huntsman Corp. founder, packaging innovator, and philanthropist, died on Feb. 2. He was 80 years old.

To the chemical industry, Huntsman is best known for the company that bears his name. In 2016, Huntsman Corp. was the sixth-largest U.S. chemical company, with $9.6 billion in sales.

Huntsman came to the chemical industry in the early 1960s as an egg salesperson in Southern California. Using a plastic extruder and an improvised thermoforming machine, he developed the first polystyrene foam egg cartons.

This invention led to a packaging joint venture with Styrofoam giant Dow Chemical and the founding of Huntsman Container Corp. in 1970. That company would continue to innovate, inventing the polystyrene foam clamshell container used for the Big Mac and other takeout food.

Huntsman founded Huntsman Corp. in 1983 with the purchase of a Shell polystyrene plant in Belpre, Ohio. He would grow to be known as a shrewd negotiator with a knack for sensing the right time to buy and sell businesses. Two of his company’s biggest deals were its $1.1 billion acquisition of Texaco Chemical in 1993 and its $2.8 billion purchase of ICI’s commodity businesses in 1999.

Huntsman stepped down as chairman of Huntsman Corp. at the end of last year, handing over the reins to his son Peter Huntsman, who is also the firm’s longtime CEO.

Huntsman was a familiar face around his company. “Dad loved to visit our sites around the world. Many of our employees knew him personally, and he knew many of them by name,” Peter Huntsman recalls. “While never a chemist, he knew more about human chemistry than anyone I have ever met.”

Jon M. Huntsman Sr. gave away more than half a billion dollars to various causes over the years. Perhaps most notable is the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, which Jon Huntsman, twice a cancer survivor himself, founded in 1993.

The Huntsman family recently pledged an additional $120 million to the center. “Other than his family, his goal to eradicate cancer from the face of the earth was the greatest passion of his life,” says Mary Beckerle, director of Huntsman Cancer Institute.

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