ALL THAT GLITTERS IS NOT SILVER, 1980.

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C ORNERING A MARKET

is every speculator’s dream.


Jay Gould, the master manipulator of the 19th century, tried it with gold in 1869 and made a fortune. Now, a century later, the Hunt brothers of Texas tried to corner silver and crashed big-time.


The billionaire Hunt Brothers, Nelson Bunker, W. Herbert and Lamar, started their run in August, 1979. By early 1980, they had amassed 120 million ounces of silver, more than 1/3 of the world’s annual production, plus 50 million ounces in futures. The price, around $10 an ounce when they started, had climbed past $50. Then, ------the bubble burst!


In 1869, President Grant had to open the Treasury’s gold vaults to break Jay Gould’s corner. Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and his anti-inflation drive did in the Hunt’s. As Volcker ratcheted interest rates upward, the commodities boom ended. Silver, $50 an ounce in January, began a sickening slide that brought it back to $10 by March.


Then the world discovered the Hunt’s debts matched their fortunes. One margin call, from Bache, was for $100 million. Settling a silver deal with Englehard Minerals took 8.5 million of silver and the brothers’ interest in major Canadian oil and natural properties in the Beaufort Sea. Congress and government regulators began to swarm all over the Hunts.


To refinance their debt, the Hunts lined up $1.1 billion in bank credit and had to hock almost every asset they owned. (Interest was more than $500,000 a day.) The banks demanded everything from Placid Oil, their biggest moneymaker, to Bunker’s thoroughbred horses, Herbert’s Greek and Roman treasures, Lamar’s Rolex watch and even his wife’s mink coat.


The Hunt’s fought hard, very hard. They sued their banks, blaming them for their woes. Bunker, Herbert and Lamar disappeared from Forbes magazine’s “rich list.” Finally, in 1988, after a jury ordered them to pay $132 million to a Peruvian silver company, the brothers filed under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.



 

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Church of the Science of GOD, 1993
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