1892 - 1976 (83 years)
Has 2 ancestors and 44 descendants in this family tree.
||Jean Paul Getty |
|Relationship||with Francis Fox|
||15 Dec 1892
||Minneapolis, Hennepin Co., MN
||6 Jun 1976
||This person is also Jean Paul Getty at Wikipedia |
||21 Apr 2003 |
- founding father of the Getty clan. He inherited his father's oil business, and invested money from it into the stock market, which generated immense affluence. Although he cultivated friendships with English royalty and its aristocracy, one of his possessions was a pay phone for his guests at Sutton Place, his London home worth $17 million.
Los Angeles, California, where young Getty attended private school before
graduating from Polytechnic High School in 1909. After a European tour he attended the
University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley; he spent his
summers working on his father's oil rigs as a "roustabout." In 1912 Getty enrolled in Oxford
University in England, from which he received a degree in economics and political science in
In 1914 Getty arrived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, determined to strike it rich as a wildcat oil
producer. Although he operated independently of his father's Minnehoma Oil Company, his
father's loans and financial backing enabled him to begin buying and selling oil leases in the
red-bed area of Oklahoma. Getty saw himself as a modern oil man, relying on geological data
and not simply on the instinct of the experienced veterans, but he also thrived on the
excitement, gamble, risks, and high stakes of the oil business. Getty's own first successful well
came in in 1916, and by the fall of that year he had made his first million dollars as a wildcatter
and lease broker.
For the next two years Getty "retired" to the life of a wealthy playboy in Los Angeles, but he
returned to the oil business in 1919. During the 1920s he and his father continued to be
enormously successful both in drilling their own wells and in buying and selling oil leases, and
Getty became more active in California than in Oklahoma. He amassed a personal fortune of
over three million dollars and acquired a third interest in what was to become the Getty Oil
After his father's death in 1930 Paul Getty became the president of the George Getty Oil
Company (successor to Minnehoma Oil), but his mother inherited the controlling interest, as his
father had been upset with his son's profligate personal life. During the 1930s Getty followed
several paths to both short-term and long-term success. His wells continued to produce, and
profits poured in. He also bought a controlling interest in the Pacific Western Oil Corporation,
one of the ten largest oil companies in California. After a series of agreements with his mother
he obtained the controlling interest in the George Getty Oil Company, and he began real estate
dealings, including the purchase of the Hotel Pierre in New York City.
The Getty Oil Company
Getty's ambition was to build up an independent, self-contained oil business involving refining,
transporting, and selling oil as well as exploration and drilling. To that end he began in the
1930s to gain control of the Tidewater Oil Company. Getty pursued that goal in a series of
complicated maneuvers, which involved tilting with the giant Standard Oil of New Jersey, until
in the 1950s he had control of Tidewater, Skelly Oil, and the Mission Corporation. In 1967
these companies merged into the Getty Oil Company, the foundation of Getty's fortune. Getty
had a majority or controlling interest in Getty Oil and its nearly 200 affiliated and subsidiary
firms, and he remained its president until his death in 1976.
At the outbreak of World War II, Getty, a yachtsman, volunteered for service in the Navy, but
his offer was rejected. At the request of Naval officers, however, he took over personal
management of Spartan Aircraft, a Skelly and Getty subsidiary. The corporation manufactured
trainers and airplane parts, and it later converted to the profitable production of mobile homes.
After the war Getty took a lucrative gamble on oil rights in the Middle East. In 1949 he
secured the oil rights in Saudi Arabia's half of the Neutral Zone, a barren tract between Saudi
Arabia and Kuwait. He made major concessions to King Saud, which shocked the large oil
companies, but after three years and a $30 million investment, Getty found the huge oil
deposits that helped make him a billionaire.
In his business career, Getty continued to invest and reinvest; his fortune consisted not of cash,
but stocks, corporate assets, and real estate. A loner, he saw himself as a solitary knight in
fierce battle with the giant "Seven Sisters" oil firms, and that competitive urge fueled his desire
to build a larger and larger fortune.
A "Public" Personal Life
In 1957 Fortune magazine published a list of the richest men in America. Getty's name headed
the list, and the resultant publicity turned the reclusive Getty into an object of public fascination
and legend. Getty complained about the fame, the requests for money, and the assumption that
he would pick up every restaurant check, but he also furthered his own legends: he wrote
articles on such topics as "How To Be Rich" and pretended to poverty by wearing rumpled
suits and threadbare sweaters. The public was fascinated by Getty's wealth and extravagance
and also by his reputed stinginess. After 1959 he stopped living out of hotel rooms and
established his home and offices at Sutton Place, a 16th-century, 700-acre manor outside
London. The huge estate, with its gardens, pools, trout stream, and priceless furnishings, was
also a near garrison, with elaborate security arrangements. Giant Alsatian dogs had the run of
the estate, and there were also two caged lions, Nero and Teresa. Numerous stories circulated
about Getty's penny-pinching; the most famous incident was the installation of a pay telephone
on the Sutton Place grounds. Getty offered various explanations, but the public preferred to
see the phone booth as a symbol of his stinginess.
The public also seemed to like to read into Getty's life the lesson that money does not buy
happiness. Getty was married five times: to Jeannette Dumont (1923), Allene Ashby (1925),
Adolphine Helmle (1928), Ann Rork (1932), and Louisa Lynch (1939); each marriage ended
in divorce. He had five sons, two of whom predeceased him, and his relationship with each of
them was difficult. His grandson, J. Paul Getty III, was kidnapped in Italy in 1973. Although he
was returned for a ransom, part of his ear had been cut off. Getty was a celebrity, and public
interest, fueled by envy and admiration, focused on Getty's tragedies as well as his billions.
Besides oil, Getty's major interest was art. He began serious collecting in the 1930s--European
paintings, furniture, Greek and Roman sculptures, 18th-century tapestries, silver, and fine
Persian carpets, including the 16th-century Ardabil carpet from Tabriz. He housed his
collection at Sutton Place and at his ranch house at Malibu, California, one wing of which he
opened as the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1954. In 1969 construction began on a new Getty
Museum, also on his Malibu property. The huge building is a replica of an ancient Roman villa
found near the ruins of Pompeii, and the extensive Getty collection was moved there after his
Jean Paul Getty died at Sutton Place on June 6, 1976. He is buried on his Malibu estate.