If Jon Huntsman Jr. decides to throw his hat into the ring and run for governor in Utah, there won't be much impact on his family's business - plastics and chemicals maker Huntsman Corp. of Salt Lake City.
When Huntsman accepted a position as deputy U.S. trade representative in 2001, he resigned as vice chairman of Huntsman Corp., but retained his position as chief executive officer of Huntsman Family Holdings, a separate entity that oversees family investments in Huntsman chemicals, plastics business and other financial areas.
In that position, Huntsman Jr. has some decision-making power with the firm, but he is not involved in the day-to-day management of the chemicals and plastics businesses, said Huntsman Corp. spokesman Don Olsen. As a result, Huntsman Jr.'s candidacy for governor would not disrupt the firm, Olsen added.
Huntsman left his government position in late May. He then began meeting with Republican activists in Utah to review his positions on how the state should be run, according to Olsen.
Things heated up earlier this month when President Bush nominated Utah governor Mike Leavitt - who had not yet decided if he would seek a fourth term this fall - to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Leavitt are longtime friends, and Huntsman had indicated he would not run if Leavitt sought re-election, according to Olsen.
Now, Huntsman is expected to announce the forming of an exploratory committee after Labor Day, and then he is expected to announce his formal candidacy in October.
Huntsman never before has run for office, but did serve as ambassador to Singapore in the first Bush administration and has spent time with the Commerce Department in Asia as well.
Huntsman Corp. - operating as HMP Equity Holdings Corp. - is a major producer of polyurethane, polypropylene, expanded polystyrene and other specialty chemical products. MaitlinPatterson Global Opportunities Partners of New York bought a 49 percent stake in the business last year, after depressed chemicals markets almost drove Huntsman into bankruptcy.
In the first half of 2002, sales in Huntsman's polymers unit were up 41 percent to $558.4 million vs. the year-ago period, while its pretax profit jumped 13 percent to $36.5 million. Polymers generated 23 percent of Huntsman's total sales in the first half.
Peter Huntsman, Jon Jr.'s younger brother, has held the top spot at Huntsman since mid-2000 when his father, company founder Jon Huntsman, opted to focus on philanthropic efforts. Peter Huntsman said last year that the firm's future was likely to include an initial public offering or merger with a publicly held company.