J. Paul Getty

J. Paul Getty Photo

J. Paul Getty was a business tycoon who founded the Getty Oil Company. He was titled as the richest living American by Fortune magazine in 1957. The Guinness Book of Records called him the world’s richest citizens in 1966 with a fortune of $1.2 billion.

Getty was born on 15th December 1892 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He attended the University of Southern California and then the University of California finally graduating from Magdalen College, Oxford. During his holidays he helped George, his father, in his oil business in Oklahoma. In 1916 he made his first million dollars from his own oil company. However Getty got distracted from all this and went to Los Angeles to spent his money on women. He got married and then divorced thrice during this time. He came back in 1919 but by that time he had lost his father’s trust who thought that Getty would ruin the family business. However during the 20s Getty added almost $3 million to his already large estate. His father’s confidence in his son was restored and he gave him a third of the company as a result of which J. Paul Getty inherited $500,000 after George’s death in 1930.

After that he set out to reorganize and develop the company into an independent business that did the drilling, refining, transporting and selling of the oil. Soon Getty started to take over other oil companies. Even during the Great Depression Getty used his money wisely. He took control of Skelly Oil, Mission Corporation and Tidewater Oil by the 1950s. He merged all these companies which became part of Getty Oil in 1967 with Getty as the President. His shrewd investments played a key role in his company’s success.

In 1949 he had made a deal with Ibn Saud in which he paid him one million dollar a year in return for a sixty year concession to a barren land near the border of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The surprising thing about this investment was that no oil had ever been found there. However four years later when thirty million dollars had been spent, they found the oil. His gamble proved fruitful and since then 16,000,000 barrels a year were produced contributing to Getty’s wealth. He even learned the Arabic language that assisted him in his expansion in the Middle East. He has the controlling interest in more than 200 businesses along with Getty Oil. Getty also successfully invested in real estate such as the Pierre Hotel in New York.

In 1973 his grandson, Jean Paul Getty III was abducted and the kidnappers demanded $17 million. Getty refused to pay the money due to which his grandson was physically mutilated and tortured. Finally the kidnappers came down to 3 million out of which Getty agreed to pay not anything more than $2.2 million.

Paul moved to England in the 1950s and his house there became a center where he used to entertain his friends and business associates. He died on 6th June 1976 due to heart failure in his mansion in Surrey.