Davis, Marvin H.

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DAVIS, MARVIN H. (1925–2004), U.S. oil and entertainment businessman. Born in Newark, n.j., to immigrant parents (his father was a dress manufacturer), Davis moved with his family to Colorado, where he and his father bought oil and gas leases at low prices throughout the Rocky Mountains and then did extensive drilling. After taking over the business, Davis earned the nickname Mr. Wildcatter because he would drill thousands of wells in unexplored areas in search of oil or natural gas. He was a pioneer of the oil deal known as the "third for a quarter," in which an oil prospector insulates himself from risk by selling one-quarter of a well for one-third of the price of the well. Essentially, Davis drilled his own wells with other people's money. He also became a major real estate developer in Denver, acquiring a huge shopping center and office complex.

In 1981, when energy markets were peaking in the United States, he sold most of his oil and natural gas holdings for $600 million to the Canadian company Hiram Walker-Consumers Home Ltd., and turned his attention to undervalued entertainment businesses in Hollywood and real estate in California. With Marc *Rich, the financier who became a fugitive and was later pardoned by President Bill Clinton, he bought 20th Century Fox for $725 million. When he sold the company four years later to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, newspaper and magazine articles estimated that Davis earned a profit of $325 million. Davis also owned the Pebble Beach Company, which he sold in 1990 at a profit of millions of dollars, the Aspen Skiing Company, and the fabled Beverly Hills Hotel. He made highly publicized but unsuccessful bids on companies such as Northwest Airlines, United Airlines, CBS, and Resorts International. In 2002 he led a group of investors who tried to buy the American entertainment business of Vivendi Universal with an unsolicited bid of $20 billion but was rebuffed. In 2004, Forbes magazine listed Davis as the 30th richest person in the United States, estimating his wealth at $5.8 billion.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]