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End of a silver baron's empire.

Several downtown Anchorage blocks, remnants of a Texas oil tycoon and silver baron's empire, may go on the auction block to satisfy creditors.

Nelson Bunker Hunt's remaining properties in downtown Anchorage are expected to be sold by year's end, closing out one of the biggest commercial land deals in the city's history.

Hunt was the son of legendary Texas oil man H. L. Hunt. A former billionaire who unsuccessfully tried to corner the world silver market some 13 years ago, Hunt once held $160 million in property worldwide, including a large ranch in Australia and oil and gas properties in the Mideast, Canada and the United States. He began buying Anchorage real estate in the late 1960s.

TRF Brayton's Dale Jackson, who's been peddling Hunt's Anchorage properties to help satisfy $1.7 billion in worldwide claims against the bankrupt Texas investor, says only nine of the initial 45 Hunt lots listed remain unsold.

Jackson says he has a pending offer on six of the nine remaining parcels that "I believe will fly," adding that the last three tracts will be sold at public auction if a buyer can't be found.

It was nearly three years ago when TRF Brayton first listed the Hunt properties.

Neither TRF Brayton nor NBH Liquidating Trust of Dallas, Texas, which hired the Alaska commercial real estate company to dispose of Hunt's Anchorage properties, would ever disclose the actual selling prices. The mostly undeveloped property was listed at $21,067,690.

Says Jackson, "Those properties all got market value, but it was still far less than what they would have gotten in 1983 or 1984," Alaska's oil boom years.

Not only did contract terms require buyers to pay cash, Jackson explains, but the land was put on the market in the wake of Alaska's worst economic recession.

"I said at the time it would take a minimum of two years to liquidate them," Jackson notes. "They have not necessarily been hard properties to get rid of, but the requirements have been hard to live with in our economy. The trust can't finance anything and won't take terms."

In December 1991, the first 21 Hunt parcels were sold to Enserch Joint Venture, consisting of the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States and the Equitable Variable Life Insurance Co. With estimated Alaska assets of $100 million, the Equitable had already repossessed Hunt's 300,000-square-foot Enserch Center office building at 550 West Seventh Avenue.

Jackson had received four bids on those initial Hunt tracts, which total 168,026 square feet and take in a full block adjacent to the Enserch Center at West Seventh Avenue and F Street and portions of two blocks at West Eighth Avenue and E Street and West Eighth Avenue and D Street.

The Equitable properties currently are being used as parking areas for the Enserch Center.

"At one point this property was worth $100 a square foot, but I can tell you it sold for a lot less than that," says Jackson.

Nevertheless, Jackson noted at the time of the sale: "I think this shows at least some people still have confidence in downtown Anchorage, even on a speculation basis."

Since the Equitable deal, TRF Brayton has sold nine downtown lots at Fifth Avenue and H Street to a group called Musgrave Children's Trust and six lots at Seventh Avenue and C Street to the federal government.

While it appears Musgrave is holding its lots as a long-term investment, the federal government intends to use its recently acquired land to build a new office building across the street from the existing Federal Building.

Jackson would not identify the prospective buyer on six of the remaining nine unsold lots, but the property is located in the same block at Seventh Avenue and C Street containing lots purchased by the federal government.

TRF Brayton's three remaining unsold lots are located at Fourth Avenue and Cordova. If a buyer can't be found, Jackson says, they will be sold at public auction before the end of the year.

"The liquidation has taken about as long as I originally estimated and sold at about the price I originally estimated, but not at the price we listed," says Jackson.

Meanwhile, Douglas Kusel, an executive officer for NBH Liquidating Trust, says the trust will soon be dissolved because most of Hunt's worldwide assets have been sold. He adds that creditors also are getting only 8 to 10 cents on the dollar, partly because of high administrative costs associated with running the trust.

"It's getting to the point where it's not worth keeping the trust open," he says.

Kusel now concedes the trust was particularly worried about ridding itself of Hunt's Alaska's properties.

"Going into this, we felt there were certain areas of the country that would be more of a problem because of the economy," explains Kusel. "And we had real concerns about Alaska. It's been a surprise. We're extremely happy."
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Texas oil Tycoon Nelson Bunker Hunt
Author:Tyson, Ray
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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