Childhood & Early Life
Jean Paul Getty was born to Sarah Catherine McPherson Risher and George Getty in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father, formerly a lawyer, entered the oil industry in 1903.
In 1905, the family pulled up stakes in the oil business, relocating to Los Angeles, California. Young Getty attended private school before entering the Polytechnic High School. He graduated from the same in 1909.
He then gained admission at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and University of California at Berkeley. In 1912, he transferred to the Oxford University in England to study political science and economics. He graduated from the same in 1914.
While at college, he spent the summers working at his father’s oil fields in Oklahoma as unskilled labourer. During his time therein, he learnt the trick of the trade.
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In 1914, he moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to start up as an oil producer. For the same, he took financial assistance from his father in the form of loan. He, however, operated independently from his father’s Minnehoma Oil Company.
With the financial aid from his father, he started buying and selling oil leases. He bought an oil lease in Tulsa for $500. Though his competitors thought his move to be an unwise decision, the business earned him his first huge share of profit.
By 1916, he made his first million, earning the same from the Nancy Taylor No. 1 Oil Well Site near Haskell, Oklahoma. Despite finding huge success in oil business, he retired from being an oil producer the following year to become a Los Angeles playboy.
The detour in his career did not last long as he resumed the oil business in 1919. However, by then, he had lost all the respect and admiration that his father felt for him.
He spent the better part of the 1920s working in close collaboration with his father. The duo engaged in drilling oil wells and buying and selling oil leases. He personally looked after the work in California.
It was years of hard work that he amassed fortune worth three million dollars. Furthermore, he acquired a third interest in the Getty Oil Company. After the death of his father in 1930, he inherited a mere $500,000 of the $10 million the senior Getty left at his death. Additionally, he was given the position of the president in the company.
In the new position, he worked diligently, investing his resources intelligently. He restructured the company in such a way that it operated a self-sufficient business of drilling, refining, transporting and selling oil. He then moved to make major acquisitions, starting with the Pacific West Oil Corporation and moving on to Mission Corporation.
In 1949, he gambled for a tract of barren land near the border of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with Ibn Saud, by paying the latter $9.5 million in cash and $1 million a year for a 60-year concession. No oil was discovered for four years. However, the tables of fortune turned as in 1953, the land started producing 16,000,000 barrels a year, greatly enhancing the fortune of the company.
By the end of the 1950s decade, he got hold of the Skelly Oil and Tidewater Oil as well. In 1967, the companies merged to operate as a single unit under Getty Oil Company, thus increasing the profit of the company. His personal wealth also increased from millions to billions.
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To aid his expansion in the Middle East, he learned Arabic language. His ever expanding business helped him earn a controlling interest in more than 200 business including Getty Oil Corporation. His personal wealth doubled from $2 billion to $4 billion
In addition to oil business, he ventured into the hotel business as well. He made several successful real estate investments in hotel industry, including the Pierre Hotel in New York City.
In 1959, he purchased the Sutton Place, which was spread over 1500 acres and encompassed 72 rooms. The country house, which once belonged to the Duke of Sutherland, became the centre of Getty Oil and his associated companies.
Apart from business, he was an avid art collector. He established the J. Paul Getty Trust in 1953. The trust operates the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California which is home to some of the world exquisite art collection worth $2.7 billion
Personal Life & Legacy
He married five times in his life. The first was with Jeanette Demont in 1923. The following year, they were blessed with a baby boy. Only three years after their marriage, the couple separated legally.
In 1926, he married Allene Ashby. The marriage did not last long and the two parted ways in 1928. The same year, he married Adolphine Helmle with whom he had a son. The marriage hit the rocks in 1932.
Ann Rork was the fourth wife with whom he went into the wedlock in 1932. They were blessed with two sons. However, much like his previous nuptials, this too did not last long and ended in 1936.
His last wedded wife was Louise Dudley Teddy Lynch. The two married in 1939 and divorced in 1958. They had a son who died the same year the two legally separated.
He spent the later part of his life living in British Isles. He breathed his last on June 6, 1976 due to heart failure.