The Hunt brothers of Texas yesterday paid another $22.6 million to Bache Group Inc. to settle more of their debts from the collapse of the silver market two weeks ago.
Bache announced the payment in New York and said the Hunts' debt to it "has been very substantially reduced."
"The Hunts have reconfirmed their intention to pay all losses in full," Bache officials said.
Nelson Bunker Hunt and his brother W. Herbert were unable to meet a $100 million debt to Bache after the price of silver plummeted to $10.70 an ounce on March 27.
To settle the debt, Bache sold millions of ounces of silver that the Hunts had put up as collateral on the loans, but that was not enough to cover the obligations. The billionaire Hunt brothers were also forced to sell other investments to raise cash to pay Bache and other silver speculating debts.
One of the things the Hunts sold, The Washington Post learned yesterday, was 400,000 shares of Columbia Pictures stock. The Hunts paid as much as $36 a share for the stock, but were forced to sell it for $27 -- a loss of about $3.5 million.
The Columbia pictures stock was considered a blue-chip investment in the Hunts' portfolio, and its sale indicated the Hunts were hard-pressed to raise cash, sources familiar with the transaction said.
Last week the Hunts were forced to give oil and gas wells in Canada to Englehard Minerals and Chemicals Corp. to settle a silver debt.
Neither the total losses suffered by the Hunts nor the amount they have yet to repay is known.
Statements made previously by Bache indicate the Hunts still owe the company about $10 million. Last week Bache said the Hunts owed about $50 million. A $17 million payment was reported on April 1.
Bache officials said they expect to know by the end of the month the total extent of the Hunts' losses.
The Hunts invested in silver futures contracts through Bache and also bought large amounts of silver bullion on credit from Bache subsidiaries.
The Hunts have covered all their losses on futures transactions, but are still paying off other silver debts, sources said yesterday.
The Hunts put up part of their silver hoard as collateral on loans and used the loans to buy more silver. When the price of the metal plunged from $50 an ounce to little more than $10, the billionaire brothers were forced to come up with additional collateral or sell the silver.
The silver price has moved back up to about $16, in the process covering part of the Hunts' obligations.