Transcript: Jon Huntsman Sr. on the Importance of Giving Back

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," February 5, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: You know, I always wondered what it must be like to be any one of my next guest's nine kids. He is a billionaire several times over.

He sits them all down, I imagine, at a table, and tells them, guess what, kids? I'm giving it all away, but not to you.

Truth be told, I really don't know how chemical kingpin Jon Huntsman Sr. told the kids he would be giving all his nearly $2 billion dollar fortune to charity. But they know now, seem to like him now, seem pretty comfortable with it now.


And he is here to talk about it now and information on his company, which is making some news today as well.

With me now is Jon Huntsman Sr., whose book "Winners Never Cheat" echoes his beliefs that we are all obligated to give something back — in his case, a lot back.

Jon, good to have you.

JON HUNTSMAN, FOUNDER & CHAIRMAN, HUNTSMAN CORPORATION: Nice to be here, Neil. And it's wonderful to see you again.

CAVUTO: Same here.

I do want to talk a little bit what you are doing for charity and all of that. But the news of the moment is, the company is not for sale at the moment. What happened?

HUNTSMAN: The company is not for sale.

We spent the last three months talking to some interested parties. And our board of directors concluded that both the price and the contract were not sufficient enough to meet the standards of the board and to enhance shareholder value.

But we have a great company going forward, particularly our specialty chemicals end. And we look forward to a great year this year and next year. And I wouldn't be a bit surprised if we don't have some wonderful opportunities in the future.

CAVUTO: Did they hold the price down, hoping — thinking — that you would cave? Or what do you think happened?

HUNTSMAN: Well, you know, it's hard to know.

People like to make good deals. And, you know, we weren't born yesterday. You know, for 35 years, Neil, I had the company private. And now we are public. We have an obligation, a fiduciary obligation, to our shareholders to get the best possible price for them, and to get a contract that's ironclad.

It's like the Albertsons situation that we have been going through here...

CAVUTO: Right. Right.

HUNTSMAN: For almost a year-and-a-half.

Finally, they understood — the buyers — that they had to give them a contract that addressed antitrust and financial details, and that the company wasn't going to take those risks. And we are not going to take those risks either.

CAVUTO: So, you responded kind of like Tony Soprano, effectively, right?


CAVUTO: That is what you did.


HUNTSMAN: Well, no. We just said, thank you. They are fine people.

CAVUTO: Right.

HUNTSMAN: They all are very, very fine people. And I can't speak more highly of anyone than the people we talked with.

But there has to be a price and there has to be a contract. And it's too fine of a company to do otherwise. And, in the meantime, we are moving ahead, and we are building a great business. And if this thing happens to bubble up again, and it's in the interests of our shareholders, we will be right there negotiating.

CAVUTO: Let's talk a little bit about your personal style, where you have committed to give so much to charity, eventually wipe out your fortune, get off the Forbes list. That's a lot of dough.

HUNTSMAN: It's a lot of dough, but I can hardly wait, Neil, because, you know, life is meant to be happy. And it's meant to be successful. There is no great joy in making money. I mean, I don't think there is. I think the great joy is...

CAVUTO: Many people would disagree, by the way.

HUNTSMAN: I don't know what you can do with it than brings more joy than giving it away, and to look in the eyes of people who have cancer, and to go through our cancer institute and our hospital, and to see the feelings in their eyes, and the tears in their eyes, and to see people in homeless shelters.

I mean, that's the greatest joy you can have in life. And you know that, Neil. I mean, listen, you are one of my heroes. And I have watched you with cancer, with M.S.

And, Neil Cavuto, you are one the greatest men on Earth.

CAVUTO: Yes, but, Jon, you have dealt with this multiple times. You have seen close family members die, I think your mother in your own arms.


CAVUTO: You have dealt with this tragedy.

Leave it to a type-A person. And I wrote about you in my first book, because you essentially said, well, I guess I have to find a cure for this.

And, so, you built this huge foundation. But are the kids on board with this?

HUNTSMAN: Oh, they are all on board.

CAVUTO: Really?

HUNTSMAN: Yes. And, truth be told, they have got, you know...

CAVUTO: They got have a little...


HUNTSMAN: A little portion there.

CAVUTO: You haven't left them destitute.



HUNTSMAN: No. No. They won't be out picking onions tomorrow.

CAVUTO: But, one thing that struck me interesting, Jon, is, you said companies have an obligation to give something back.

HUNTSMAN: They absolutely do.

CAVUTO: But shareholders — now you're a publicly listed company. Is that a tougher sell?

HUNTSMAN: It's a tough sell, but people have obligations.

It doesn't matter if it's $10 or $20 or $50, all in relation to what they earn. But corporations have an obligation, Neil. I mean, we can't rely on the government to take care of all of the needs. One out of two men are going to have cancer in their life. And one out of three women will have cancer in their life. And corporations have an obligation to give 1 or 2 or 3 percent of their net profits back to charity and their communities.

CAVUTO: Shareholders will say, let us decide on that. It's not the company.

HUNTSMAN: Then, I would say to the shareholders, I'm very sorry. You don't understand what this world is made of. You don't understand that graciousness and kindness and charity is part of the American way of life.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you. You are a Mormon. And Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts, who is a Mormon, we are told, is giving serious thought to running for president.


CAVUTO: Americans don't understand Mormons, Jon. Does he have a chance?

HUNTSMAN: I think Mitt has a wonderful chance.

I knew Mitt's father, George, very well. We were in the Nixon White House together when he was secretary of HUD. But we have grown up together. Mitt is one of the most outstanding young men. He is articulate. He is bright. He is knowledgeable.

And people hear about Mormons, and they think, gosh, they are a different breed or culture. But, you know, we have five U.S. senators. We have 18 in the House of Representatives. We have some of the great CEOs in America. We are just normal people, like everybody else. And, for some reason or another, people mischaracterize us.

I want to tell you, Mitt is going to be an all-star, when it comes to 2008.

CAVUTO: Do you think he will be the next president?

HUNTSMAN: I think he has a very good chance at it. I'm working hard for him.


Jon Huntsman Sr. "Winners Never Cheat" is the book.

Everyone is hitting him up here for money while he is here.


CAVUTO: I don't know why.


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