Inside the Getty Family’s Troubled Past

By: Emma Roberts | Last updated: Nov 08, 2023

From oil wealth to kidnapping and tragedy, discover the incredible and poignant story of the Getty family. 

With their vast fortune, it seemed they had it all—but behind the glamour was a tale of unbelievable penny-pinching, affairs, and acrimonious divorces. Follow their captivating journey and uncover the truth about a family with “all the money in the world.”

A Rich Legacy: The Incredible Story of J. Paul Getty 

The incredible story of J. Paul Getty begins with his privileged upbringing as the only child of affluent lawyer George Getty and his wife Sarah. Born in Minneapolis in 1892, J. Paul was raised in the lap of luxury thanks to his father’s thriving law practice in the booming Midwestern city. But what happened next is even more remarkable. 


Source: Aaron Tycko/Wikimedia Commons

J. Paul used his upbringing to build an empire and establish a legacy as one of the wealthiest and most powerful figures of the 20th century. A true success story, J. Paul Getty’s journey is an inspiring reminder of how ambition and hard work can lead to a lasting legacy.

Gaining Riches Through Vision: The Story of George Getty 

George Getty had the insight to recognize the potential of the oil industry and acted on it. In 1903, he moved to Oklahoma and founded Minnehoma Oil Company, and within two years, he had earned enough money to move his family to a luxurious mansion. 



His great foresight and ambition enabled him to become one of the most successful oil magnates in history and to provide his family with a life of wealth and privilege. George Getty’s story is a testament to the power of vision and entrepreneurship.

An Exceptional Student Achieves Greatness: The J. Paul Getty Story

J. Paul Getty was a gifted high school student who achieved remarkable success. He went on to study at some of California’s best colleges and even had a prestigious stint at Oxford University in the UK.



After graduating in 1914, Getty had a strong background in economics and petroleum geology, as well as fluency in multiple foreign languages. His hard work and determination resulted in an incredible career that would make him one of the world’s wealthiest individuals. This is the inspiring story of J. Paul Getty.

From Rags to Riches: The Story of J. Paul Getty

Once just a farm boy, J. Paul Getty rose to become one of the world’s wealthiest men. In September 1914, his father George Getty, who had already achieved immense success, loaned his son the money to buy oil leases in Oklahoma’s ‘red-bed’ area. 


Source: Geological Survey/Wikimedia Commons

Driven by ambition, J. Paul sold the leases at a massive profit, laying the foundations for his incredible success. With his goal of amassing his own fortune achieved, J. Paul Getty went on to make history.

From Zero to Millionaire at 23: J. Paul Getty's Epic Journey 

At just 23 years old, J. Paul Getty had already achieved something remarkable. After amassing a fortune of over $1 million – equivalent to $22.6 million today – he moved to Los Angeles to live the life of a playboy lothario, much to his father’s dismay. But he wasn’t done yet. 

Source: USC/Wikimedia Commons

By the end of the 1920s, the oil tycoon had increased his wealth to a staggering $3 million. From zero to millionaire in just a few short years, it was an incredible journey of business savvy, ambition, and luck.


A Tycoon's Three Marriages: J. Paul Getty's Unconventional Love Life

J. Paul Getty, the oil magnate renowned for his workaholic lifestyle, was an unconventional family man. In 1923, he married 18-year-old Jeannette Dumont and their son George was born the following year. But the marriage was short-lived and, between 1926 and 1928, J. Paul wed Allene Ashby and Adolphine Helmle, with whom he had a son Jean in 1929.

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His numerous divorces have been attributed to his preference for business over family, often putting in 18-hour days and working even on weekends and vacations. Getty’s love life was far from ordinary, and his marriages could not compete with his passion for work.


A Scandalous Legacy: J. Paul Getty's Troubled Past

When George Getty passed away in 1930, his son J. Paul was faced with a difficult inheritance. Despite being proud of his son’s business acumen, George was appalled by J. Paul’s playboy lifestyle and multiple failed marriages – a shocking development for the 1920s. 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In an effort to protect the family company from his son’s scandalous behaviour, George left J. Paul with just $500,000 of his $10 million estate, while the majority went to his mother. It was a striking reminder that George did not trust J. Paul to continue his legacy.


A Young Tycoon's Midas Touch: How J. Paul Getty Transformed Oil Stocks During the Great Depression 

At the start of the Great Depression, J. Paul Getty was already set to become a tycoon. He took a risk that went against the advice of experts and invested in oil stocks for a fraction of their original cost. 

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His gamble paid off, leading him to the acquisition of the Pacific Western Oil Corporation and eventually the Mission Corporation, parent of Skelly Oil and Tidewater Oil, which went on to form Getty Oil. Thanks to J. Paul’s midas touch, he was able to make a fortune even in the midst of economic hardship.


Oil Baron Marries Silent Movie Star: New Love in the Air 

J. Paul Getty and Adolphine called it quits in 1932, but love still had a chance for the oil baron! He found a new love that same year in the form of silent movie actress Ann Rork, and the two formed a beautiful union. 

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Together, they had two children: John Paul Jr., the father of future kidnap victim John Paul Getty III, and Gordon Peter. Unfortunately, the couple parted ways in 1936; yet, their love still remains a shining example of what can be achieved when two hearts meet!


Tragedy Strikes the Getty Family 

The world-renowned oil tycoon J. Paul Getty was no stranger to tragedy. In 1939, he married nightclub singer Louise Dudley ‘Teddy’ Lynch and the two were blessed with a son, Timothy. 

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Unfortunately, the joy of parenthood was short-lived, as Timothy succumbed to a brain tumor at just 12 years old. Louise later recounted how J. Paul had scolded her for spending too much money on the boy’s cancer treatment, an event that marked the beginning of a series of unfortunate events for the Getty family.


J. Paul Getty: Hero of World War II 

J. Paul Getty’s heroic contributions to the Allied war effort during World War II will never be forgotten. His selfless dedication to the cause saw him take charge of the production of aircraft parts via his Spartan Aircraft company and even put himself forward for naval service. 

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This courageous act of patriotism inspired many others to follow in his footsteps and join the fight against the Axis powers. Through his tremendous efforts, J. Paul Getty helped pave the way for a victorious end to the war.


A Billionaire’s Fear of Flying: J. Paul Getty’s Life on the Move 

J. Paul Getty’s fear of flying and travelling, in general, led him to settle in Europe after World War II. Positioned between the oil fields of the United States and the Middle East, he spent his late 1940s and 1950s living out of hotel rooms, such as the George V in Paris and the Ritz in London. 

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His nomadic lifestyle allowed the billionaire to keep up with his business dealings, while also enjoying the best of European culture. With a life of luxury, J. Paul Getty showed us that no matter how far you go, home is always where the heart is.


A $100 Million Bargain: J. Paul Getty's Investment of a Lifetime 

In 1949, J. Paul Getty struck gold with an incredible investment that would pay off in spades. He negotiated a bargain price with King Saud of $9.5 million, around $100 million in today’s money, for a 60-year lease on a barren tract of land between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. 

Source: Hulton Archive/Getty

To sweeten the deal, he agreed to pay an additional $1 million a year for the duration of the lease. Little did he know that the investment would become an incredibly lucrative one!


J. Paul Getty's Midas Touch: 16 Million Barrels of Oil and Counting 

In 1953, J. Paul Getty’s deal paid off in a big way. His Middle East interests unearthed huge reserves of oil, and soon the magnate’s companies were pumping out 16 million barrels a year. 

Source: Hulton Archive/Getty

That same year, he finally took control of the Mission Corporation and its subsidiaries, such as Skelly Oil and Tidewater Oil. Not content with his success, Getty also convinced his mother to let him run the family’s oil business. With his Midas touch, Getty was able to turn anything he touched into gold.


J. Paul Getty's Lonely Life After His Son's Death 

When J. Paul Getty’s son tragically passed away in 1958, the tycoon was living in England, far away from his fifth wife, Teddy. In her exasperation, Teddy filed for divorce and J. Paul Getty never remarried again. 

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Despite this, he was never without female companionship, being seen with Hollywood stars such as Zsa Zsa Gabor. His life thereafter was marked by loneliness and a lack of true companionship. Although he was surrounded by people, J. Paul Getty was never able to fully recover from the devastating loss of his son.


J. Paul Getty: From Riches to Celebrity Fame 

The billionaire oil baron J. Paul Getty may have topped Fortune magazine’s 1957 list of the richest Americans, with a net worth equivalent to $8.7 billion today, but his attitude to fame was far from straightforward. 

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While he relished the limelight and enjoyed the adoration of the public, Getty was also well aware of the drawbacks that came with his newfound celebrity status. He was a man of paradoxes, and his story of great wealth and fame will continue to fascinate for generations to come.


Billionaire Blues: The Misery of J. Paul Getty 

The legendary J. Paul Getty was notorious for his immense wealth, but few knew of the billionaire’s sorrows. His life was one of perpetual mourning, with constant begging letters and suspicion of those around him. 

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An ex-employee once described Getty as if he was “attending his own funeral,” such was his despair. Even in his luxurious lifestyle, the tycoon continually moaned about the struggles of being a billionaire. It’s sad to think such a successful man was weighed down by his own wealth.


A Billionaire's Bargain: J. Paul Getty's $840,000 Mansion 

Back in 1959, J. Paul Getty, the legendary oilman, made a shrewd investment in Sutton Place, a 16th-century Tudor country house in England. For the equivalent of $7.5 million today, he secured an exquisite property that has since been owned by billionaire Alisher Usmanov. 

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Notorious for his tight-fistedness, Getty even installed a coin-operated telephone to prevent guests from running up the bills. In addition, he owned a villa in Malibu, California; a 15th-century palace near Rome; and a mansion in Kuwait, making him one of the wealthiest people of his time.


The Millionaire with a Frugal Heart: The Life of J. Paul Getty 

J. Paul Getty was one of the world’s wealthiest men, but he was renowned for his thrifty ways. Despite having a net worth of up to $3 billion, he would often wear crumpled suits and worn-out sweaters to appear poor. He even went so far as to wash his own socks and underwear! 

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When it came to his fifth wife, he insisted she pay back every cent of the acting lessons he bought her should she land a paid role. In addition, he once reportedly forced a group of friends to wait to get into the Crufts dog show to qualify for cheaper tickets. Truly, J. Paul Getty was a millionaire with a frugal heart.


Tragedy Strikes J. Paul Getty's Family 

J. Paul Getty’s life was far from perfect. Although he was one of the wealthiest men in the world, his family life was filled with pain and tragedy. His son John Paul Jr. suffered from alcohol and drug addiction, while his second wife Talitha tragically passed away due to a fatal overdose in 1971. 

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To make matters worse, his eldest son George’s death in 1973 was believed to be a suicide. It was a difficult time for the extended Getty family, yet even in the midst of such despair, they still managed to press on.


Kidnapped for a Kingly Ransom: John Paul Getty III's Ordeal 

The extraordinary story of John Paul Getty III made headlines in June 1973, when the then 16-year-old oil baron’s grandson was kidnapped in Rome by the notorious ‘Ndrangheta gang. The kidnappers demanded a ransom of a staggering $17 million – equivalent to $94 million in today’s money. 

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It was a huge sum for the time, fit for a king! Thankfully, after months of negotiation, John Paul was released mostly unharmed. Yet the episode left a lasting impression and remains an iconic reminder of the world’s first trillionaire’s vast fortune.


J. Paul Getty's Miserly Act Costs His Grandson an Ear 

When his grandson was kidnapped in 1973, oil tycoon J. Paul Getty’s notorious parsimony led him to refuse to pay the ransom. His refusal cost the child dearly – the kidnappers sent a lock of his hair and a severed ear to an Italian newspaper as a warning. 

Source: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/Wikimedia Commons

After months of negotiation, J. Paul eventually agreed to pay part of the reduced ransom of $2.9 million, equivalent to $16 million in today’s money. He also lent his son John Paul Getty Jr. the remaining money, to be paid back with interest. Such was the price of J. Paul Getty’s miserly act.


The Tragic Tale of John Paul Getty III: A Life Cut Short 

John Paul Getty III’s life was tragically cut short after being kidnapped and held for ransom in 1973. Although he was released later that year, his psychological trauma was so severe that it scarred him for life. His health further deteriorated after an accidental drug overdose in 1981, leaving him profoundly disabled. 

Source: Ian Nicholson/PA

Sadly, John Paul Getty III died in 2011 at the age of 54 after a long period of ill health. His story serves as a reminder of the devastating consequences of kidnapping and other forms of exploitation.


The Riches of J. Paul Getty: Unparalleled Art Collection of a Business Tycoon 

The late J. Paul Getty was known for his tight-fisted ways, but when it came to collecting art, he was willing to open his wallet wide. From the 1930s onwards, he acquired an extraordinary collection of works by renowned artists, including Rembrandt, Tintoretto, Monet, and many more. 

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He was so passionate about his art that he eventually opened the Getty Museum in California to house his beloved pieces. To this day, the museum stands as a testament to the unparalleled artistic taste of this legendary business mogul.


A Wealthy Legacy: J. Paul Getty's $17.3 Billion Fortune 

The late J. Paul Getty made his mark on history in 1976 when, at the age of 83, he passed away at his Surrey mansion. His legacy lives on, however, in the form of the $4 billion fortune he left behind. 

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Adjusted for inflation, that’s a staggering $17.3 billion! The majority of this impressive sum was donated to the J. Paul Getty Trust, making it the world’s wealthiest art institution. In this way, Getty’s legacy continues to shape the future of the art world.


Tragedy Strikes Again: The Getty Family Loses Another Member 

John Gilbert Getty, the 52-year-old grandson of J. Paul Getty, has been found dead in a Texas hotel room due to complications from a fentanyl overdose. This comes just two months after the death of his mother Ann from a heart attack at age 79. 

Source: Instagram/Ivy Getty

Seen here with his daughter Ivy, John Gilbert was the second son of businessman and composer Gordon Getty, whose eldest, Andrew, passed away at 47 from an intestinal ulcer, with toxic levels of methamphetamine present in his body. Gordon Getty’s remaining living children are Peter and Billy, along with their three half-sisters born from his affair. As the Gettys continue to suffer heartbreaking losses, their sorrowful story remains an ongoing tragedy.