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Tycoon's estate pays $360m to children fathered on sex safaris

When Larry Hillblom, reclusive founder of DHL Worldwide Express, died in 1995, he left behind more than a business empire. His legacy also included four Asian children fathered during obsessive sex safaris across the Far East. David Usborne explains how they have won a slice of his estate.

Bringing a happy end to a paternity battle that was as tawdry as it was tropical, four impoverished children from South-East Asia have won $90m each from the estate of the founder of DHL Worldwide Express, the world's largest air courier service.

The children, two little Filipina girls, a Vietnamese boy and a teenage boy from Palau, were apparently fathered by Larry Hillblom during quests for teenage virgins that took him to girly clubs and go-go bars in the Philippines and throughout the Far East.

The settlement with the children and their mothers was reportedly agreed secretly last month on the Pacific island of Saipan, where Mr Hillblom had lived for the final 10 years of his life. Additionally, $240m was released for medical research at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).

A lawyer for the teenage Palauan, 13-year-old Larry "Junior" Hillblom, confirmed the deal to the San Francisco Examiner newspaper at the weekend. "There is no question that these kids are not going to have to worry about how their power bills will be paid," David Lujan told the paper.

It was only weeks after Mr Hillblom's death in August 1995, when he ploughed a vintage World War II seaplane into the Pacific Ocean, that women from across the Far East started coming forward with children they said had been fathered by the tycoon. Formal claims were filed by at least eight women.

In his own court filings, Mr Lujan labled the reclusive tycoon a paedophile and said that he "kept mama-sans on the payroll to save virgins for him" in an array of bars and clubs. The allegations were at first denied by Mr Hillblom's estate and its original executor, former DHL chairman Joseph Wachtler.

The normal manner of settling such suits - comparing the DNA of parent and child - was not available because Mr Hillblom's body was lost at the bottom of the ocean.

In the end, however, "sibling DNA" testing was carried out that established that the four children making the claims had one common parent, even though they came from four different places and three different countries. That, apparently, was enough to persuade the estate to settle.

The scandal is said to have shaken DHL to its core. Founded by Mr Hillblom in 1969 when he was still at university in Berkeley, it now offers its services in 200 countries around the world.

Officials noted, however, that the settlement should have little impact on the company. Nor would it affect ownership, because other principals can buy back Mr Hillblom's stock from any heirs.