Roy Huffington, Oilman and Philanthropist, Dies at 90

Roy M. Huffington, an oilman who played a major role in developing Indonesia's oil and natural gas sector and later served as a U.S. ambassador to Austria, has died. He was 90.

Huffington died Friday while traveling out of the country, according to the funeral home George H. Lewis and Sons.

Huffington also founded the Huffington Foundation, which donated millions of dollars to Houston charities, and also served as the chairman of the New York-based Asia Society for more than seven years in the 1980s.

Huffington served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and upon his return, became a field geologist for Humble Oil Co. In 1956, he established his own Houston-based independent oil and gas exploration firm, Roy M. Huffington, Inc., or Huffco.

He worked in Texas and Louisiana until 1968 when he struck a groundbreaking production-sharing contract with the government of Indonesia.

"I was interested in Indonesia because no oil and gas exploration had been done there for a significant period of time," Huffington said in a February interview with the Houston Chronicle newspaper. "Fortunately, everything turned out to be very good."

"Major companies at that time didn't like production-sharing contracts. They wanted to own (the oil and gas) in the ground, but the Asians said no, you get your money back in a share of the profits. I got in at a very proper time. Whether it's war, love or business, you can lose the battle, the girl or the business deal, so my timing happened to be very good on that."

Discoveries in East Kalimantan led to the development of a multi-billion dollar LNG export project between Indonesia and Japan, which became a major source of revenue for the country.

Huffington sold his company for about $600 million after President George H.W. Bush appointed him as U.S. ambassador to Austria, where he served from 1990 to 1993 and worked to establish business links between former Soviet bloc countries in Eastern Europe and Western firms.

"Houston has lost a great citizen in Roy Huffington," former President Bush said in a statement. "Not only was he one of the country's great entrepreneurs, he was also a pioneer in the oil business and gave selflessly of his time and energy."

Huffington and his wife, Phyllis, who died in 2003, also established the Huffington Center on Aging at the Baylor College of Medicine.