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Facts About the Getty Family

11 Fascinating Facts You Need to Know About the Getty Family

There's wealthy, and then there's the Getty family. Lead by the late patriarch and oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, the Gettys are one of the most famous — and infamous — families in American history, with a past that's equally as tragic as it is extravagant. Thanks to two recent projects, the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III, an incident so unimaginable that it made international news and has been the subject of books, is back in the spotlight.

FX is currently airing Trust, a 10-episode miniseries by Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle. The star-studded cast includes Hilary Swank, Brendan Fraser, Donald Sutherland as ruthless oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, and newcomer Harris Dickinson as his grandson, John Paul Getty III. The miniseries takes a closer look at the kidnapping that divided one of the world's most powerful families, and casts the Getty patriarch as cold and heartless for his refusal to pay his grandson's ransom to Italian kidnappers.

If the story sounds familiar, that's because it was also the premise of last year's movie All the Money in the World. While the two projects approach the kidnapping differently and have both come under fire for how they portray the Getty family, these facts about the Gettys are as fascinating as anything you could make up.

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  1. J. Paul Getty was a millionaire before he was 25. The son of an oilman and entrepreneur, the industrialist was drilling his first successful oil well in Oklahoma by 1916 and became a millionaire the next year.
  2. The oil magnate was once the richest man in America. A 1957 issue of Fortune magazine dubbed J. Paul Getty the richest living American.
  3. Oil wasn't the only family business. Much of the Getty fortune came from oil fields located all around the world, but the family also made money from owning hotels, gas stations, and various companies tied to the oil business. In 1995, J. Paul Getty's son Mark co-founded Getty Images, which grew to become the leading hub for stock and historical photography and video. It was later sold to the Carlyle Group for $3.3 billion in 2012. (The images in this post, as well as many other POPSUGAR posts, were taken from Getty Images.)
  4. The billionaire initially refused to pay his grandson's ransom. When the 16-year-old John Paul Getty III (pictured below) was kidnapped in 1973 and held for an approximately $17 million ransom, his billionaire grandfather refused to pay a dime. During the time of the ordeal, the Getty patriarch told the press, "I have 14 grandchildren, and if I pay a penny of ransom, I'll have 14 kidnapped grandchildren." As the situation grew more dire (John Paul Getty III got his ear cut off by his captors), his grandfather agreed to pay the tax-deductible amount of $2.2 million and loaned an additional $1 million to the boy's father for a total of $3.2 million for John Paul Getty III's release. The entire saga lasted five months.

(Original Caption) Grandson of millionaire J. Paul Getty.

  1. J. Paul Getty left a chunk of his fortune to the Getty Museum. When the oilman died in 1976 at the age of 84, he left $700 million to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. His personal art collection was world-class and the gift was the largest ever given in support of the arts at the time.
  2. 12 of J. Paul Getty's mistresses are in his will. In Trust, the oil tycoon has a bevy of live-in girlfriends, which is no exaggeration. In his will, 12 women received various amounts of stock in Getty Oil ranging from 250 to 5,000 shares, and monthly payments for life ranging from $100 to $1,167.
  3. He left just $500 to two of his sons. In his will, the billionaire left two of his four sons, J. Paul Getty Jr. and Gordon Peter Getty, "the sum of $500 and nothing else."
  4. Texaco bought Getty Oil in 1984. At the time, the $10.13 billion takeover was the biggest buyout in history.
  5. Actor Balthazar Getty is the son of John Paul Getty III. Balthazar broke onto the Hollywood scene thanks to a role in 1990's Lord of the Flies. Since then, he's appeared in Charmed, Hawaii Five-O, and House of Lies.
  6. The Getty family is still really, really rich. The family fortune is thought to be around $5 billion, making the Getty's the 56th richest family in America.
  7. They're not fans of All the Money in the World or Trust. John Paul Getty III's sister Ariadne Getty spoke out against the film and recently called Trust "a wildly sensationalized false portrayal of the Getty family" via her attorney.
Image Source: Getty / Bettmann
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