| FROm thE vAULt: gEttY’S mightY gRip,Ñ JULY 15, 1957
BILLIONAIRE J. PAUL GETTY’S empire stretched from California to Arabia, encompassing oil wells, refineries, tankers and hotels. It totaled some $1.1 billion in assets, almost $10 billion in current money. And Getty ruled absolutely, with unbridled ambition. “He just can’t stop as long as there’s a Shell or a Standard Oil bigger than he is,” one Wall Streeter observed. “He’s driven to keep growing.” Getty owned trophies, including the Pierre Hotel in Manhattan, but most of his wealth came from oil, and in the late 1950s, he was watching a bet on Middle East reserves begin to pay off.
Emperor Paul lived a life of contradictions. He eventually took up residence in a 73room English manor and amassed a museum-quality collection of art (Rubens, Titian, Gainsborough and many more). Yet he was famously parsimonious and “steadfastly shun[ned] publicity, some say for fear of being kidnapped,” we noted. As the Oscar-nominated 2017 movie All the Money in the World depicts, Paul wasn’t the Getty who ended up getting abducted. His namesake grandson was instead—and true to form, the tightfisted elder Getty initially refused to pay the ransom. Getty’s eccentricity, Forbes concluded in 1957, was “symptomatic of a deep urge to create wealth—and keep it.”