Frank Williams III in 18 Acres of England – billionaire corporate raider with a wide-open heart


The simple story is that Frank Williams III was the son of Frank Williams II, who was the son of Frank Williams I. The heritage goes back through Williams with different Christian names to the first known of that name, a tenant at Hunt Ridge just outside Charlottesville where the heat of summer reaches 98 degrees and the humidity is not far behind.

The family might have remained contented tenant farmers if it had not been for one of those freak occurrences that happen, on average, once every two or three lifetimes.

The gift of the Hunt Ridge Estate by Richard Sutherland in 1783 changed everything. It gave capital to a family that had none. And from that point, there was no looking back.

But Frank Williams III was born in a four-room ranch house that had seen better days. It had an open plan kitchen and sitting room, two bedrooms and a bathroom. Downstairs was a basement, only partly finished, with a shower and toilet in an alcove. The basement was full of those down on their luck, grateful for shelter, food and kind words. For Frank Williams II, as a young man, had turned his back on the wealthy and privileged existence he had known, turned to the poor and the itinerant. He had deserted Charlottesville, Virginia and moved to Brownsville, Virginia, a town where redundant miners coughed blood and leukaemia incidence was twenty times the national average.

And bootleg bourbon flowed like water.

The young Frank Williams knew only this existence yet picked up something in his formative years of another world. It all changed in eighth grade with his mother’s death. He was sent, one summer, to his grandfather at Hunt Ridge and never looked back.

“I don’t want to go back to Brownsville, Grandpa,” he said as August ticked by.

“Then don’t, my boy.” And Frank Williams I had argued with Frank Williams II long into the night to gain charge of the younger generation.

Frank Williams III did not stay still in his new existence. Top grades at a local high school led to a scholarship to Harvard. His grandfather had sold his armaments business and become a corporate raider. He took this to new heights. By the time he hit thirty, he had increased the family net wealth by a factor of ten and entered the realms of the super-rich.

And then one day a ragbag troop of borrowed vehicles turned up at Hunt Ridge. They were led by his father who realised that the level of cancer in Brownsville exceeded his pride and he would demand help. He came ready for battle but found understanding and love; a new relationship with his son. They had intended to camp on the lawn in their beat-up vehicles but were taken into the house, bedrooms found for all, medical care too.

That summer, Frank Williams III discovered the real power of money; the power to take a broken life and make it whole; the power to give out hope where there was despair; the power of love in all its funny, twisting ways.

And he set about making a lot more money, partly because it was who he had become, a corporate raider of epic proportions, sweeping in to find its prey every time. And partly because he now knew how to spend that money.

Frank Williams II soon returned to Brownsville, Virginia, but his pride was worn smooth as he sent a stream of cancer sufferers north and a little east to Charlottesville for certain care.

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