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Street practice Huntsman Sr. ‘doesn’t like much’

He's a self-made success, he founded a business that grew into a multibillion-dollar corporation and he once sent 30,000 Christmas cards.

Those are just a few of the many noteworthy accomplishments of Jon Huntsman Sr., the chairman of Huntsman Corp.

Tuesday On CNBC's "Closing Bell" he spoke candidly about many aspects of his long and storied career, also chronicled in his new book, "Barefoot to Billionaire: Reflections on a Life's Work and a Promise to Cure Cancer."


Jon M. Huntsman Sr., right, in 2012
Paul J. Richards | AFP | Getty Images
Jon M. Huntsman Sr., right, in 2012

Huntsman first achieved success after noticing companies sustained losses due to damage that occurred during shipping. In turn he developed packaging that minimized the damage. His innovative and sought-after products ultimately led to the Huntsman Container Corp., founded in 1970.

Through a series of strategic acquisitions and joint ventures the company evolved into a powerhouse, with a market cap of more than $20 billion and revenue in excess of $11 billion in 2013.

However, Huntsman was somewhat critical of the mergers and acquisitions that happen in the market today. "Private equity firms have changed acquisitions in America forever," he said.

In 2008, Apollo Management planned to acquire Huntsman and combine it with its own business, Hexion Specialty Chemicals.

Apollo later walked away from the agreement arguing that a combined Hexion-Huntsman, which was to be completely funded with debt, would be insolvent and therefore could not meet banks' funding conditions.

Ultimately the matter was settled for more than $1 billion.

"When I bought companies it was done on trust, on a one-on-one basis and with the intention of taking care of employees. Today it's about who can bid the highest. There's no personal interest. It's a different world and one that an entrepreneur like me doesn't like much."

Turning attention to the 2012 race for president, Huntsman denied that any hard feelings for Mitt Romney endured, and added they were, perhaps, closer than they've ever been.

At the time of the election, both sides traded quips with Huntsman's son, Jon Huntsman Jr. seeking and losing the GOP nomination to Romney.

The two families are distant cousins.

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Looking ahead to 2016, Huntsman Sr. said Romney probably shouldn't and wouldn't run again. "I think the family went through such an experience ... it would be tough to go through that again."

When asked who he thought should run, he said, "The most obvious candidate is Jon Jr. And right next to my own son, Jeb Bush."

Turning attention to oil and the state of the economy, Huntsman, whose company is also involved in the chemical business, said he thought oil didn't have much farther to fall. "I think oil prices will stabilize relatively quickly when OPEC has its meeting right around Thanksgiving."

And when asked about the economy, he added, "our business is doing extremely well. We just had the best third quarter in our history."