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THE BIG DADDY OF SPORT
Edwin Shrake
September 07, 1970
H. L. Hunt, a likely winner in the race for world's richest man, was never much for fun and games, but two of his boys, Lamar (below) and Bunker, back their leisure-time interests with gushers of money
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September 07, 1970

The Big Daddy Of Sport

H. L. Hunt, a likely winner in the race for world's richest man, was never much for fun and games, but two of his boys, Lamar (below) and Bunker, back their leisure-time interests with gushers of money

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Bunker has left the team sports to Lamar, but has developed quite a sporting passion of his own—horseracing. In 1952 a former roommate at The Hill School in Pottstown, Pa. invited him to the thoroughbred sales at Keeneland, Ky. Bunker amazed himself by buying three horses. Currently Bunker has a number of mares in Kentucky, about 10 more mares in Virginia, a dozen horses training in California and 22 horses training at Chantilly in France, where he does most of his racing. "One Saturday in Paris I had nothing to do and went out to the races," he says. "I found out it costs one-third as much to train a horse in France as it does in the United States, and the purses in France are comparable to ours. So I thought I'd try it."

Bunker owned half-interest in Vaguely Noble, the Prix de l' Arc de Triomphe winner of two years ago who was later syndicated for the then record price of $5 million, and owned French Oaks winner Gazala and French 1,000 Guineas winner Pampered Miss. He has recently purchased a farm in New Zealand, where his racing operation will be headquartered. "I've grown to love racing," he says. "It's the cleanest sport there is."

Bunker is usually on the move, filling a seat in the Hunt Lockheed Jet Star for much of the 200,000 miles the plane is flown in a year by Jake Cobb, who has worked for the Hunts since 1949. "Bunker likes jokes, characters and good times, in that order," says Cobb. During the uranium craze in the mid-'50s, Cobb would fly Bunker to Las Vegas for a spot of relief from filing mining claims, and when they reached the tables they would switch names. Cobb recalls that it was rather a pleasant experience for him to be flattered and hustled, but now Bunker is too well known on sight to be able to conceal his identity at his favorite recreation parlors. For one thing, he is one inch less than six feet and weighs 230 pounds, which makes him about as easy to hide as an Ohio State guard. In 1960 a car called the Ken-Paul Special, driven by Jim Rathmann and owned by Bunker's friends Ken Rich and Paul Lacy, won the Indianapolis 500. At the party afterward a few cases of champagne roused the spirits of the celebrants, who began throwing members of the victorious group into the motel pool. When Bunker's turn came to be dunked they couldn't lift him. "I'll help you," he said, and jumped into the water. "Bunker is always on half a diet," says Cobb. "That means he skips the ice cream with his pie."

Beyond Bunker, the Hunts' sporting interests diminish. Herbert Hunt, the third of the active brothers, is a skier and owns a small piece of Lamar's soccer league, but he primarily runs the Pen-rod Drilling Company and other enterprises out of the family offices on eight floors of the First National Bank Building in Dallas. One of the two Hunt girls, Margaret, is married to Dallas oilman Al Hill, who has an indoor tennis court in his home where private tournaments are held involving international stars. The other, Caroline, is the wife of oilman and rancher Loyd Sands. H. L. Hunt's second wife, the former Mrs. Ruth Ray Wright, whom he married in 1957, has four children, all of them occupied in the family businesses.

But other than the old man, the best-known of the Hunts is, to be sure, Lamar. Although he changed cities with his football team he refused to change coaches or concepts. For years the Chiefs had been accused of failing in the important games—a complaint Dallas fans are now directing at the Cowboys—and Lamar was often urged to fire Coach Hank Stram, who was an assistant coach at the University of Miami when Lamar hired him 10 years ago.

"I'm like everybody else. I like to see my team win and I have second thoughts when we lose," Lamar says. "But I've always felt that Stram is a leader and has the ability to produce a winner. He's improved as a coach. He should have, after all these years. Now he's the granddaddy coach of the league and is regarded as outstanding. That makes me very happy. I enjoy the challenge of helping something succeed. The fact that we've sold as many season tickets for 1971 as we sold total tickets for all our home games in 1962 doesn't exactly displease me, either."

"Lamar is something like me," says H. L. Hunt. "He's stubborn and knows how to fight." The old man, who is liable to fly off alone tourist class with a suitcase bound up by leather straps to visit a sheik and try to beat a 20-man delegation from another country out of an oil concession, is an authority on determination. Once he crashed a party given by a foreign potentate at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan for Russian Premier Khrushchev ("the old rascal grinned and shook my hand on his way out"), and there are many tales of financial enemies overcome, of deals made and games won. Although he insists he had no part in Lamar's effort to put the AFL across, H. L. Hunt clearly enjoys watching it. "Lamar's turning out to be a pretty good trader," the old man says.

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