This Man’s Family Was Once America’s Richest, But When He Was Kidnapped They Wouldn’t Pay The Ransom

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Image: Texas Energy Museum/Newsmakers

Born in Minneapolis in 1892, J. Paul was an oil man. He learned the business from his father George Getty on summer study breaks. After starting his own company in Tulsa, Oklahoma, In 1910 J. Paul drilled his first well. It made him a millionaire before he had turned 19 years old.

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J. Paul gradually increased his fortune over the years and began to make forays into the Middle East. In 1949, he began exploring for oil near the Saudi border with Kuwait. It took four years for him to find what he was looking for but, once he did, the site was soon turning out 16 million barrels of oil annually. J. Paul became an international oil titan, with controlling shares in some 200 companies – an empire he managed from his Tudor country estate, Sutton Place in Surrey in the United Kingdom.

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But J. Paul was not as successful in love as he was in business. In fact, by the time he settled in the United Kingdom, he had a string of failed marriages to his name. His fifth and final wife, Louise, left him in 1958 after their 12-year-old son, Timothy Ware Getty died from a brain tumor. Many years later Louise wrote that J. Paul had chastised her for spending too much on Timmy’s medical care.

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