The Long Lost Hunt Brother

alexeimiller.jpgSome of you may be too young to remember, but back in the late 1970s, the American oilman Nelson Bunker Hunt sought to protect his windfall profits from developing Libyan oil fields against inflation by teaming up with his brother, William Herbert Hunt, to corner the global market on silver. Twenty-eight years later, it appears we have finally found the long-lost Hunt brother: Alexei Miller of Gazprom, who appears to be well on his way to cornering the global market on natural gas. Here’s just a brief selection from Miller’s greatest hits: a $2 billion exploration deal in Bolivia in the middle of a civil conflict, a multi-million dollar pipeline deal and exploration licenses in foreigner-unfriendly Venezuela (Kremlin arms deals helped grease the wheels), the Nigerian mega-offer which is seen “one of the boldest forays in the global fight for African energy assets,” cooperation agreements and a new office in Algeria, attempts to purchase all gas from Turkmenistan at double the price, a joint venture with Kazakhstan, mid- and down-stream assets all across Europe, and finally – the blockbuster offer to take over all of Libya’s gas. It seems that Miller has never met a gas market he hasn’t wanted to buy. But so far, the long lost Hunt brother doesn’t look to be following a path toward the ill-fated demise experienced by his silver-speculating predecessors. Nelson Bunker and William Herbert came close but ultimately failed to corner the world’s silver market when a spectacular crash occurred on March 27, 1980, when they failed to make the margin call on “Silver Thursday.” Their fortunes were wiped out, they were banned from trading, and their names went down in history as being tied to one of the most egregious abuses ever seen in commodities markets. Will Gazprom’s global, monopolistic intentions lead to a similar fate?