Richest People in History Jean Paul Getty

About Jean Paul Getty, history, biography, and worth of one of the richest men in history



Jean Paul Getty, who in 1957 sadly philosophized that "a billion dollars isn't worth what it used to be," was born in Minneapolis on Dec. 15, 1892. His father was a lawyer who made millions in Oklahoma oil. J. Paul was educated at the University of Southern California, the University of California at Berkeley, and Oxford, from which he went to Tulsa (site of his father's Minnehoma Oil Company) in 1914 determined to make a million dollars within two years. He bought and sold oil leases with great success and--true to his resolve--was a millionaire by 1916.

After taking a few years off from the money-making grind to enjoy spending his earnings on women, Getty returned to Oklahoma in 1919. During the 1920s he added about $3 million to his already sizable estate. His succession of marriages and divorces (three during the 1920s, five throughout his life) so distressed his father, however, that J. Paul inherited a mere $500,000 of the $10 million the senior Getty left at his death in 1930.

Through shrewd investment during the Depression, Getty acquired Pacific Western Oil Corporation, and he began the acquisition (completed in 1953) of the Mission Corporation, which included Tidewater Oil and Skelly Oil. In 1967 the billionaire merged these holdings into Getty Oil.

His most daring business venture began in 1949, when he paid Ibn-Saud $9.5 million in cash and $1 million a year for a 60-year concession to a tract of barren land near the border of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. No oil had ever been discovered there, and none appeared until four years and $30 million had been spent. But from 1953 onward, Getty's gamble produced 16 million barrels a year, which contributed greatly to the fortune that made him the richest person in the world. He died on June 6, 1976.

How Much?

Getty owned the controlling interest in nearly 200 businesses, including Getty Oil, and associates put his overall wealth at between $2 billion and $4 billion.

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