When billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr. died last year at the age of 80, he left behind a wife, eight children, 56 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren.

He also left a family office to help take care of them, as well as continue the clan’s charitable giving.

Peter Huntsman, 56, focuses on running the publicly traded global chemical giant that bears the family name, while younger brother Paul works to diversify the family money beyond its reliance on Huntsman Corp. That includes making direct investments in a business that produces chemicals for U.S. Department of Defense and NASA rockets, as well as a Guam telecommunications firm that provides critical links to the militarily sensitive island.

“A lot of families, particularly legacy families, may not have the experience in sourcing and executing transactions, and we still kind of have that in our DNA,” said Paul, 50, who started Huntsman Family Investments five years ago with his father. “We were like a merchant banker or PE fund during the 1980s and 1990s, because my father was basically a deal junkie.”

Salt Lake City-based HFI was funded with more than $1 billion from family foundations and trusts, according to Huntsman Sr.’s memoir, “Barefoot to Billionaire: Reflections on a Life’s Work and a Promise to Cure Cancer.” A big chunk of the assets -- about $655 million in 2017 -- are from the Huntsman Foundation. The family wants to invest the foundation’s money to fund giving for generations to come.

Like many family offices, the Huntsmans are increasingly looking to do direct deals, often tapping a network of wealthy families as co-investors. A UBS Group AG survey released in September found that 46% of 360 global family offices surveyed said they plan to put more money into direct private equity investments in the coming year.

HFI typically looks to invest between $25 million and $50 million, with a time horizon of 10 to 15 years, said Benjamin Wu, 31, a partner in the firm who earlier worked at RedBird Capital Partners. He invests alongside the Huntsmans using his own family’s money, much of which was made in real estate.

“The risk-reward equation is very important to us, because ultimately this will fund the charitable endeavors of the foundation -- cancer research, mental health awareness,” Wu said. “It’s not just going to line family member’s pockets so it gives it a little more meaning.”

The Huntsmans have a big presence in Utah. A devout Mormon, Huntsman Sr. married the daughter of a man who later became an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Both families trace their roots back to the 19th century Mormon pioneers who followed Brigham Young to the Salt Lake Valley. Huntsman served in mostly senior church leadership positions for more than 50 years.

He and his wife Karen gave away about $1.5 billion in his lifetime, much of it to establish and support the Huntsman Cancer Institute on the campus of the University of Utah. His name is also on the university’s sports arena and other buildings around the state. The couple signed Warren Buffett’s giving pledge in 2010, promising to give their fortune to help cure cancer and support other causes.

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