Hiblom Story

Phan Thiet Hotel and Golf Course 2001

Seahorse Menu

During my return to Vietnam, in 2001, this is the menu from the Seahorse restaurant. Note the menu has all of the things we enjoy at a US restaurant.

During my trip to Vietnam in 2001 we stayed in Dalat Palace Hotel and the Novotel in Phan Thiet. While in Dalat we had a meeting with the manager, who was an American living in Dalat. I asked him who owned the hotel and he told me that the hotel was owned by the University of California, at UCSF and the heirs. He meant that the heirs were the children of Larry Hillblom. Hilblom was the founder and owner of DHL air courier. The following article about Hilblom is quoted from Wikipedia.

In Vietnam, he spent US$40 million to restore the Dalat Palace Hotel and its golf course. Other investments included the Novotel Dalat, Novotel Phan Thiet, Ocean Dunes Golf Course, and the Riverside Apartments outside Ho Chi Minh City. The investment was made via an overseas holding company to avoid an American embargo against Vietnam. The Dalat Palace Hotel opened in 1995 under Hillblom's and his Vietnamese partners' ownership with management personnel provided by Accor.

Hillblom was an aircraft enthusiast and owned a number of vintage planes. His seaplane crashed on May 21, 1995, on a flight from Pagan Island to Saipan. The bodies of the pilot, Robert Long, and a business partner were found, but Hillblom's body was never recovered.

Paternity controversy
Hillblom's will stated that the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) would receive his estate, and did not specify any children in the 1982 will. There was no "disinheritance clause" in the will, which caused controversy. After his death, Hillblom's estate was the subject of lawsuits from children fathered across the Pacific. According to Saipan law, illegitimate children born after a will has been drawn up are entitled to make a claim on the estate.

Women from several Asian and Pacific countries made claims that he had deflowered them by committing statutory rape on them and was the father of their illegitimate children. Kaylani Kinney, the first woman to come forward, claimed to have given birth to a child, Junior Larry Hillblom, fathered by Larry Hillblom. David J. Lujan (Guam), lead legal counsel and co-counsel Barry Israel (Santa Barbara, CA) for Ms. Kinney were responsible for filing the first claim on the Hillblom estate; several women throughout Asia later made similar claims. The law of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, where Hillblom was a resident, awarded children, legitimate or not, first right to inheritance, overriding any will. However, since Hillblom's body was not recovered in the crash, there was no DNA that could be used to determine paternity. Mysteriously, his house in Saipan was discovered to have been wiped clean. The sinks had been scrubbed with muriatic acid, and toothbrushes, combs, hairbrushes, and clothes were found buried in the backyard, making them useless for DNA testing.

Investigators discovered he had had a facial mole removed at UCSF Medical Center, and it was still there; UCSF agreed to relinquish the mole (although its release could, of course, deprive UCSF of the estate if it could be used to prove Hillblom had sired children). It was later discovered that the mole was not from Hillblom.

Hillblom's mother, brother, and half-brother initially refused to submit their DNA, which could also have been used to determine the paternity of the children. David Lujan and co-counsel Barry Israel then dispatched a team of investigators to compare the DNA of all the children suing for the claim on Hillblom's estate. Lujan and Israel surmised that since the girls were located in different countries if the children shared certain DNA markers, the only logical conclusion would be that they would almost certainly have the same father. In the end, a judge ordered Hillblom's brother and mother to submit to genetic testing. The tests confirmed that four of the eight claimants were Hillblom's children.

It was ultimately determined that a Vietnamese child, Lory Nguyen; Jellian Cuartero, 5, and Mercedita Feliciano, 4, of the Philippines; and Junior Larry Hillblom, of Palau were fathered by Hillblom. In the final settlement, each of the four children received a gross payment of US$90 million, reduced to about US$50 million after taxes and fees, while the remaining US$240 million went to the Hillblom Foundation, which followed Hillblom's wishes and donated funds to University of California for medical research.