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The man poised to own The Salt Lake Tribune, and therefore chart its editorial and business direction, is described by family, friends and colleagues as unassuming and reserved, the kind of guy who will say something thoughtful but only if you approach him first.

Paul Huntsman is 46, a Republican and a devout Mormon who has operated largely within his family's business and philanthropic empire for the past 15 years, occasionally acting as a surrogate at public functions for his famous father, Jon Huntsman Sr.

But Paul Huntsman wants to make this much clear: His billionaire father isn't buying The Tribune nor is the Huntsman family. He is.

If, as expected, the deal with The Tribune's current hedge-fund owners goes through in the coming days or weeks, Utah's largest daily will be Paul Huntsman's possession, giving him a prominent media bullhorn to engage in the state's civic and political affairs if he chooses to wield it that way.

Paul Huntsman and the rest of his family are under a legal obligation not to discuss details of the potential purchase of the 146-year-old newspaper while final negotiations continue. That didn't stop him from unexpectedly dropping into The Tribune's offices April 22. He said he wanted to shake the hands of his potential employees; he even posed for a picture with cartoonist Pat Bagley, who had recently lampooned the pending sale.

It was mostly small talk, but he corrected a reporter who suggested the family's $1.1 billion investment fund, which Paul Huntsman runs, is the entity trying to buy the paper.

He said he had no interest in directing news coverage, but that he looked forward to "building up the business."

In an interview last week, Jon Huntsman Sr., who is 78 and one of the wealthiest Utahns, said his son's proposed ownership of The Tribune was a natural outcome, given his active role in the lengthy and complicated sale talks.

"He actually spent more than a year and a half of his life being inundated with very tough negotiation points," said the elder Huntsman. "And he did a terrific job of it and everybody trusted him and felt that his word was his bond.

"So I give Paul high marks because he isn't just a rich man's son who happened to be given this thing," Huntsman said. "Paul deserves it."

Paul Huntsman said the extended family also agreed it made more sense for him to be the sole owner, because he lives in Utah and has no intention of ever moving. It also avoids the "too many chefs in the kitchen" problem if the newspaper decided to endorse a candidate or take a strong stand on its editorial page.

The family has had some famous disagreements in the past, such as during the 2008 presidential race when Jon Huntsman Sr. backed Mitt Romney, then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. supported John McCain and Peter Huntsman, the CEO of Huntsman Corp. and the family's charitable foundations, opted for Barack Obama.

Paul Huntsman said a family as large and diverse as his would have a hard time reaching agreement on an editorial stand.

His father-in-law, LeRoy Wirthlin, a retired surgeon, has heard Paul Huntsman discuss his desire to own The Tribune on a number of occasions, believing the deal is more public service than savvy investment.

"The Tribune is lucky to have such an owner. I think he'll be fair. I think he'll be considerate," Wirthlin said. "But I never figured out why he wanted to do it. I asked him once, 'Aren't they losing money? Is that a good deal?' I think they want to make sure it doesn't die. I think he wants to make sure it continues as an extra voice in Utah."

Wirthlin added: "He's very much interested in making sure it succeeds. I don't know how great an investment it is, but they are better at business than I am."

Family ties • The sixth of Jon and Karen Huntsman's nine children, and the one who most closely resembles his father, Paul Huntsman has a big family of his own.

He is married to Cheryl Wirthlin Huntsman and together they have eight children. Cheryl's parents, LeRoy and Mary Wirthlin, had 17.

Paul Huntsman and Cheryl Wirthlin met in Jerusalem in 1991 during separate study-abroad programs. Huntsman was a political science student from the University of Utah, and she was attending LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University.

LeRoy Wirthlin once served as a Mormon "home teacher" to George and Lenore Romney in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. George, the father of Mitt Romney, had served as Michigan's governor and ran for president in 1968.

While Wirthlin knew the Romneys well, he hadn't heard of the Huntsmans, so he called his cousin, Joseph B. Wirthlin, a Mormon apostle. He said the LDS leader laughed, because he had just gotten off the phone with Karen Huntsman, who had called to check on him.

The families have grown close. LeRoy Wirthlin traveled with Huntsman Sr. on business trips, acting, before he retired, as his private physician. He showers praise on his son-in-law.

"His feet are solidly planted," he said. He described Paul Huntsman as a big fan of the Utah Jazz and University of Utah athletics; a marathon runner, who enjoys hiking in Utah's mountains and national parks; and "a really tender father" often seen at his daughters' ballet recitals.

"He's a quiet man," Wirthlin said. "He's not flamboyant by any means, but you can't misjudge him. He is very quietly effective."

Paul Huntsman's father is clearly proud of him.

"I like that he's quiet. He never talks about himself. He doesn't have an ego of any kind," said the senior Huntsman. "I've never heard him lose his temper or get upset. He's very even-tempered — just a very, very fine man as far as integrity is concerned.

"I have a lot of respect for him," he said, "and the family does, too. We're all cheering for him."

Career ladder • After graduating from the U., Huntsman moved to Australia, where he worked in human resources for his family's chemical company. He then moved to Houston for three years, working as a product manager, director and, eventually, a vice president responsible for base chemicals.

He decided he needed to further his education and followed in his father's footsteps by earning an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania's rigorous Wharton School, but he was a little wary. It had been five years since he got his bachelor's degree, and he didn't want to be behind his business classmates. He asked his colleague Stephen Roemer to tutor him in math, resulting in twice-weekly visits to his home to work on problems.

"Remarkably, there is so much humility that the imposing aspect of working with a Huntsman was never felt," Roemer said.

At Wharton, Huntsman became friends with Rees Johnson and a group of other LDS students. Johnson said Huntsman, who had served a Mormon mission in Sendai, Japan, would use a Japanese style of leadership in the study group. He would let everyone speak, observe the strength of their arguments and then weigh in last.

"He takes that kind of wise, patient approach," Johnson said. "Paul is very open-minded, and he is open to the discourse on all sides of an argument. That is just how his mind works."

His dad echoed that observation.

"He's a good listener," said Huntsman Sr. "He loves to hear new thoughts and ideas. He's not quick to judge people. He likes to let them have a lot of opportunity to express themselves."

After Wharton, Huntsman worked for Deutsche Bank in New York City for a year, considering it post-graduate work as he honed his finance skills. He lived in nearby, quaint Scarsdale, where he got to know Joel Wright, a lawyer now serving on Utah's state school board.

Wright described Huntsman as "not super-outgoing or gregarious. He doesn't suck up all the oxygen in the room. He seems to be fairly secure with himself, to his credit."

He later got to know Jon Huntsman Jr., who, as governor, appointed Wright to the state Board of Regents.

He said the Huntsman family, including Paul, is at ease operating between Utah's Mormon and non-Mormon communities.

"They are comfortable with the tension, but they don't want it to turn harsh and bitter and nasty," said Wright, who hasn't visited with Paul Huntsman in a few years.

Paul Huntsman returned to Utah and worked for Huntsman Corp.'s financial division until the company went public in 2005. He then left and joined brother David to develop Huntsman Springs, a 1,400-acre high-end community in Driggs, Idaho. He also worked for Huntsman Gay Global Capital, a venture capital fund that the Huntsman family helped create, but no longer has an active role in. Paul Huntsman now is the president and CEO of Huntsman Family Investments, while his father serves as chairman. So far, the fund has made only one major purchase, buying American Pacific Corp.'s specialty chemical division based in Cedar City last November.

In the late 2000s, Paul Huntsman served as the bishop of a ward, or congregation, for single Latter-day Saints. Among his counselors was his friend and neighbor, Nate Brockbank.

"When my father passed away, he was the first one who called me," Brockbank said. "He took me to a Utah Jazz game, and we just talked for hours about my dad. He just listened."

Brockbank said he's most impressed with how Huntsman interacts with Cheryl, his wife. "They never fight. He's always including her into the conversation. He's very respectful of her opinion."

Huntsman held positions on the board of Clark Planetarium and This Is the Place Heritage Park, which includes a replica of the old Huntsman Hotel that once stood in Fillmore.

Political pendulum • Among his colleagues on the planetarium board was then-Salt Lake County Councilman Russell Skousen, who was searching for a Republican to run for his seat in 2004. He tried to recruit Huntsman.

"I just saw his judgment, and he was kind of a low key, down-to-earth guy with a lot of just good common sense," Skousen said. "I thought he would make a good councilman."

Huntsman considered it but passed, largely because the issues facing the County Council, ranging from overseeing the jail to parks to health programs, weren't the type that excited him. That same year, his eldest brother, Jon Huntsman Jr., ran for Utah's governor and won. Paul played no significant role in that campaign. He did serve as a state Republican delegate in 2008.

While he long has been a registered Republican, he's been an infrequent campaign contributor, with his gifts appearing to have ties to family friends or the chemical business.

His first donation went to Elizabeth Dole in 1999. Dole, a friend of his father, was in the middle of an unsuccessful presidential bid.

His most recent contribution went to Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden last year. He gave $5,000 and so did his wife. Wyden also received donations from Paul Huntsman's father and two brothers.

That barrage of giving came in the middle of debate about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Wyden was that effort's main Democratic backer.

Huntsman Corp. believed the agreement would make its Vietnam operation more profitable, according to a May 2015 news release. The federal government's International Trade Administration noted that the deal would nearly eliminate all import taxes for U.S. chemical companies selling to counterparts in Vietnam.

Johnson, the friend from Wharton, said Paul Huntsman was pragmatic and pro-business when it came to his political views.

As an example, he said, Huntsman argued against the 2013 government shutdown led by Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Huntsman remains frustrated by the stalemate in Congress that prevents action on issues such as tax reform and shoring up programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, believes he once met Paul Huntsman, but knows little about him. U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, ran Huntsman Jr.'s first gubernatorial campaign and said he met Paul on just a handful of occasions.

These prominent politicians and many other Utahns are likely to learn quite a bit more about Paul Huntsman and his views on issues in the months and years to come. When Brockbank heard that his friend was buying The Tribune, he turned to his wife, Emily, and said, "Paul just put himself on the map. That's pretty neat."

Reporter Tony Semerad contributed to this story ­—

About Paul Huntsman

Age • 46

Position • CEO and president of Huntsman Family Investments

Family • The sixth of Jon and Karen Huntsman's nine children. Married to Cheryl Wirthlin Huntsman. They have eight children.

Politics • A registered Republican

Interests • Marathon runner, hiker. A fan of the Utah Jazz and University of Utah athletics.

About Huntsman Family Investment

A $1.1 billion fund managed by Paul Huntsman with Jon Huntsman Sr. as board chairman to support the family's charitable endeavors. Its only acquisition took place in November 2015, with the purchase of the Cedar City-based specialty chemical company American Pacific Corp.

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