Getty, J. Paul

Getty, J. (Jean) Paul

(1892–1976) business executive; born in Minneapolis, Minn. He graduated from Oxford in 1913 and the following year entered into oil production as a wildcatter in Oklahoma with his father, George F. Getty. He made his first million dollars by 1916. His father died in 1930, leaving $15,000,000. During the Depression, he added to the fortune by acquiring other oil companies. He drilled for and discovered enormous quantities of oil in Saudi Arabia in the 1950s. In 1953, to display his collection of art, he founded the J. P. Getty Museum on an estate in Malibu, Calif. He retired to England in 1959. Married and divorced five times, he was known for his increasingly bizarre behavior such as refusing to pay ransom for a grandson even when the kidnappers sent him a piece of the youth's ear, and for installing a pay phone in his mansion for guests to use.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.