Mike Lynn Successfully Representing Al Hill, Jr. in Hunt Family Case

Hunt oil family's feud rages on with court case over $6 million loan.

By Diane Jennings / Dallas Morning Newsdjennings@dallasnews.com

The bitter battle between Al Hill Jr. and his son, Al Hill III, members of one of Dallas' wealthiest oil families, showed no sign of waning during a recent jury trial.

The victory in that case, one of a dozen or so pending cases related to the ongoing family feud, went to the elder Hill in a unanimous jury verdict to be finalized at the end of the month.

The verdict requires Al III to repay a loan of almost $6 million made in 2004 by Hill 3 Investments, a company the two men set up to invest in companies and bankroll Al III's lavish lifestyle.

There was no pressure to repay the loan until Al III, great-grandson of legendary oilman H.L. Hunt, sued his relatives in 2007 over the future of the Margaret Hunt Trust and the Haroldson Lafayette Jr. "Hassie" Hunt Trust.

In that suit, Al III accused his father, cousin, aunts, sisters and assorted friends of conspiring to plunder the family trusts and defraud the Internal Revenue Service. The two trusts were estimated to be worth $2 billion to $4 billion, with the primary asset being Hunt Petroleum, one of the legacies of H.L. Hunt, who was once considered to be one of the richest men in the country.

H.L. Hunt's daughter Margaret, who became a prominent Dallas social leader and philanthropist, died in 2007 at age 91. She may be best known today as the eponym of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge to be constructed over the Trinity River, thanks to a $12 million gift from Hunt Petroleum.

Al Jr.'s attorney, Mike Lynn, called the recently resolved case "an old-fashioned Texas swearing match."

According to court testimony, the company loaned Al III $5.9 million in June 2004, in an oral agreement with, as lawyer Talmage Boston put it, "no promissory note, no written contract, no memos, no letters, no e-mails." Also, no due date.

After the father-son relationship imploded, Al III found himself out of work at the family businesses and deeply in debt. With the two principals in the company at odds, Hill 3 Investments was turned over to a receiver, who filed suit against Al III to recover money to pay back the loan as a "demand debt."

That suit was consolidated with a dispute between Al III and his father over management of Hill 3 Investments, with the case boiling down to one question: whether the money was loaned with an expectation of being repaid at a particular time.

Al III's attorneys claimed the agreement was to repay "when the company made profits ... or when Al, III received distributions from his trust," court documents say.

Lawyers for Al Jr. and the receiver contended that the loan was to be repaid on demand. After the split between the two of them, the receiver began demanding.

Both Al Jr. and Al III took the stand in the case, as well as a handful of other witnesses.

Descriptions of the two sides in court were not flattering. Both sides implored jurors not to be swayed by their dislike of the parties involved.

"This case was about a father who had gone back on his word with his son," said Robin Harrison, attorney for Al III. Harrison also cautioned jurors not to sympathize with Al Jr., who is in a wheelchair after a fall several years ago.

Al Jr.'s attorney, Mike Lynn, called Al III a "child in a man's body."

"He has made a living by making promises about money and then breaking them. ... If Al III told you that he's going to live up to a budget to anybody in this room and he asks you for money, my suggestion is that you grab your wallet."

Lynn went on to describe Al III as "arrogant" and "spoiled." He also joked to jurors that he'd "volunteered to be Al Jr.'s son."

In a phone interview, Harrison termed the name calling "unfortunate."

The defeat is not the first for the younger Hill, Lynn noted. Several months ago, Al III's claims in the Hassie Hunt Trust case were dismissed by summary judgment.

Harrison said his client plans to appeal the latest decision and has no plans to drop his claims in the larger family fight. More than $20 million has been set aside, "pending resolution of Al III's inheritance rights," he said.

"The Hill 3 Investments case is a small piece of the larger dispute within the family ... that has to be resolved, and will be, in due course."

All the parties seem to agree on one aspect of the latest case: "This is a very unfortunate situation between a father and a son," said Boston, who represents the receiver.

But Lynn said there's no foreseeable end to the bickering. "There have been attempts to settle this," he said. "A lot of efforts. You can lead Al III to water, but you can't make him drink."

Harrison declined to comment on mediation efforts to resolve the dispute. "We think that all of the family would prefer that this matter not be discussed in the media."