Tom Hunt, the former chairman of Hunt Petroleum who helped engineer the company's multibillion dollar sale earlier this year, died Tuesday of leukemia.
Hunt, the 85-year-old nephew of famed Texas wildcatter H.L. Hunt, died at a Dallas hospital just five months after the $4.19 billion sale of Hunt Petroleum to XTO Energy, which confirmed his death.
Hunt was described by his cousins, the children of H.L. Hunt, as a savvy businessman who helped develop Hunt Petroleum from a "relatively small company" into a billion-dollar one, Herbert Hunt said.
Another cousin, Caroline Rose Hunt, told The Dallas Morning News that Hunt was indispensable to the company and a confidant to her father and his children.
"He was more than a right-hand man to my father, he was a trusted friend," Caroline Rose Hunt told the newspaper. "My father totally trusted him, as we all did."
Tom Hunt served with the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and was on the first bomber to land in Japan. He also was aboard a B-24 that performed a flyover of Tokyo Bay when the Japanese formally surrendered.
After the war, he studied chemical engineering at the University of Arkansas until his uncle recruited him into the family business. He secured land in Wyoming and North Dakota for oil exploration and eventually moved to Louisiana, to oversee the family's operations there.
Despite his extended family's vast fortunes -- his uncle was once considered the world's wealthiest man -- Hunt lived simply. He never married and lived in a town house.
"He was a wonderful friend who never did anything for himself and instead did everything for us," Caroline Hunt said.
His leadership of the family business has come under fire from at least one relative. Last year, one of H.L. Hunt's great-grandsons sued Tom Hunt and several other family members, claiming they conspired to exclude him from part of his inheritance because he opposed a plan to sell Hunt Petroleum. The case is ongoing.
Hunt is survived by a sister, Henrietta Wayland, of Sun City West, Ariz.