|Born||August 31, 1925|
Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
|Died||September 25, 2004 (aged 79)|
|Alma mater||New York University, B.S. 1947|
|Known for||Chairman of Davis Petroleum|
|Net worth||US$5.8 billion (2004)|
Marvin H. Davis (August 31, 1925 - September 25, 2004) was an American industrialist. He made his fortunes as the chair of Davis Petroleum and at one time owned 20th Century Fox, the Pebble Beach Corporation, the Beverly Hills Hotel, and the Aspen Skiing Company.
Marvin Davis was raised in a Jewish family, the son of Jack Davis and Jean Spitzer. He has one younger sister Joan (born 1929). His father came to the United States from London as a teenager in 1917 and later joined the British Navy after having been denied a college scholarship because he was Jewish. Jack Davis became a successful fashion buyer for New York department stores, and later founded the Davis Oil company. Marvin Davis graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from New York University in 1947.
He joined his father in the oil exploration business and was later nicknamed "Mr. Wildcatter." The Davis Oil Company drilled for oil and gas in the Midwest beginning in the 1940s and was incorporated in 1986 as Davis Petroleum. Marvin Davis's son Gregg Davis took over as president of Davis Petroleum and Davis Offshore in 1997.
Davis was a pioneer of the oil deal known as the "third for a quarter," where an oil prospector insulates himself from risk by selling one-quarter of a well for one-third of the price of the well. In essence drilling his own wells with other people's money. He also became a major real estate developer in Denver, acquiring a shopping center and office complex.
In 1981, Davis sold most of his oil holdings for $600 million to the Canadian company Hiram Walker-Consumers Home, Ltd. The United States Justice Department accused one of his Davis' companies of violating federal oil-pricing policies. The case was settled in 1981, with Davis paying a $20,000 fine. Business partners accused him in civil lawsuits of inflating the results of his oil wells.
In 1981, Davis acquired 20th Century Fox for $722 million with financier Marc Rich. Fox's assets included Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Aspen Skiing Company, and a Century City property upon which he built and twice sold Fox Plaza, which was made famous as the "Nakatomi building" in the original Die Hard film. While Davis was head of 20th Century Fox, President Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, complained to him about excessive sexuality in films. Reagan suggested to Davis that he produce films that implied, instead of showing, sex, in the style of director Ernst Lubitsch. In 1984 Davis appointed Barry Diller, formerly chairman and chief executive officer of Paramount Pictures, to the chairman and CEO role at 20th Century Fox. Diller asked Davis for complete control, with Davis promising to provide financing for the studio. Fox's financial situation was precarious, with the company owing $600 million. Banks would not provide any extension to the loan, and Diller pressed Davis for the new equity he had promised to put into Fox. Diller claims that Davis stalled and suggested that Diller call Michael Milken for a $250 million junk-bond loan, which would have been Diller's, not Davis', responsibility.
By 1985, Rich was in Switzerland during an indictment that was filed against him by the United States due to his violation of sanctions against his commodity trades with Iran. Marc Rich had arranged with Davis for Davis to buy out his interest in 20th Century Fox for $116 million. Davis sold this interest to Rupert Murdoch for $250 million in March 1984. Davis later backed out of a deal with Murdoch to purchase John Kluge's Metromedia television stations, which would form what is now the Fox network. Murdoch went alone and bought the studios, and later bought out Davis remaining stake in 20th Century Fox for $325 million. Davis sold Pebble Beach to Japanese businessman Minoru Isutani for $841 million in 1990. Winning a bidding war against the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, Davis bought the Beverly Hills Hotel for $135 million in 1986. Davis later sold the hotel to the sultan for a $65 million profit.
In 1999, Davis attempted to build a stadium in Los Angeles to lure the National Football League to award the city an expansion franchise during the era when the NFL was absent from Los Angeles. The expansion team ultimately went to Houston and became the Houston Texans.
In later years, Davis was linked to takeover targets including Northwest Airlines, US Airways, CBS, NBC and T. Boone Pickens' Mesa. A proponent of greenmail, the threatening of takeover bids that never come to pass, Davis said "All you have to do is look at the pretty girl and everyone thinks you're sleeping with her. You don't have to put up any money". In 2002 a deal that was structured by Ramy El-Batrawi, Davis made an unsolicited $15 billion bid for the entertainment assets of Vivendi.
Davis's eldest daughter, Patricia Davis Raynes, sued her four siblings, her mother, and several of the family's advisers, alleging that they had all helped her father to systematically steal her trust fund before his death. Her lawsuit alleged that Marvin had entrapped and beaten Patricia in an attempt to get her to sign documents giving him control over her finances. Patricia Davis later settled with all 14 parties named in her complaint, and the case was closed in January 2008. By the conclusion of Patricia Davis' case, sister Nancy Davis had taken her brother Gregg to court over the sale of Davis Petroleum, in March 2006.
Nancy Davis alleged that her brother and his partners vastly undervalued the company and thereby denied her (and her mother and siblings) of as much as $50 million in proceeds. Lawyers for Gregg Davis deny the allegations. The Texas bankruptcy court that had originally approved the deal to sell Davis Petroleum ruled in favor of Gregg and his partners, then a district-court judge dismissed Nancy's appeal. As of 2009 the case had bounced back to the bankruptcy court.
As the Davises' daughter Dana is a diabetic, the Davises founded the Children's Diabetes Foundation which hosts the biannual Carousel of Hope ball to raise money for juvenile diabetes. Davis was a long-time philanthropist, especially for medical research. A research building at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles is named for him.
Davis and his wife were for many years major donors and fundraisers for the Democratic Party. When President Bill Clinton failed to appear personally at the Carousel of Hope ball and sent a videotaped message instead, Barbara Davis told a reporter: "There are 25 people in our family...I told the White House person, "You are now talking to 25 new Republicans"".
Marvin Davis was married for 53 years to Barbara Levine. They had five children and as of November 2005, fourteen grandchildren:
In 1993 Davis and his wife were robbed of $10 million of jewels and $50,000 cash by masked gunmen while on holiday in the south of France.
Davis is interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.