GETTY, J. PAUL
A fabled oil executive, J. Paul Getty brought the Getty Oil Company to the status of an "eighth sister" among the giants in the petroleum business. The son of a Minneapolis oilman and an Oxford graduate, Getty rose from a general laborer in the Oklahoma oilfields to become a shrewd businessman, whose autocratic rule and masterful manipulation of the stock market brought him the 1957 Fortune magazine title of richest man in the world. By 1919, when he was only 23, Getty had already made his first million by buying and selling oil leases using money borrowed from his father. After his father's death in 1930, he and his eighty-year-old mother battled for control of the family wealth. Skeptical of her son's practice of buying the stock of companies in shaky financial condition, Sarah Getty tried to curb his spending and preserve some of the family fortune for future generations by creating the Sarah Getty trust, the latter subject of litigation among its beneficiaries. However, Getty's stock market speculation laid the foundation for his billion-dollar Getty Oil empire, which included holdings in oil and gas, gold, uranium, and copper mines, vineyards, orchards, grazing lands, timberlands, refineries and chemical plants. Getty's most daring coup was in obtaining an oil concession near Saudi Arabia, paying King Saud $9.5 million in cash and a million a year, a gamble that paid off in 1953. Despite being worth over $4 billion at his death, Getty was always renown as a tightwad: he kept a public pay phone in his British mansion, saved bits of string, and insisted on washing his own underwear throughout his life. Perhaps the most notorious example of his penny-pinching was his refusal to pay ransom for his grandson, J. Paul III, until finally the kidnappers cut off the boy's right ear and sent it to Getty. Ironically, Getty was unable to translate his business prowess to his personal life. Though he tried to emulate the Rockefellers and Kennedys, his own family was too fragmented and embattled to invite comparison. He had four sons by five wives, and never invited his parents to any of his weddings. Similarly, he failed to attend his own son's weddings and even missed the funeral of his youngest son Timothy. All of his surviving sons tried a stint in the family business, but failed to meet his expectations. Getty also routinely used his will as a weapon to punish "filial disloyalty," changing it 21 times. Always an avid art collector, Getty found solace in the priceless collection that later became the Malibu-based J. Paul Getty Museum Trust. This endowment has grown to $3 billion since his bequest, making the collection one of the world's wealthiest cultural institutions, with an annual budget over 25 times that of the New York Metropolitan Museum.