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Quite the eccentric actually...

Born in Minneapolis in 1892. His father was a lawyer who turned a lease bought on a gamble into the once highly successful Getty Oil Company. Eventually, Getty Oil became the subject of a fierce Wall Street takeover battle and was eventually absorbed by Texaco.

As a youth J. Paul worked for his father in the oil fields and gained some hands on experience that was useful when he took over the company. After his dad died in 1930 he and his eighty year old mother battled over control of the company and the family wealth. His mother, it seems, was skeptical of her sons practice of buying stock in companies whose financials were considered quite shaky during the depression. Jean Paul eventually won out and along with Getty Oil's petroleum business, the company expanded into natural gas, gold and uranium mines, copper deposits, vineyards, orchards, grazing lands, timberlands, refineries and chemical plants.

There was no questioning Jean Paul's business skills. His personal life was another matter. He tried to emulate the Rockefellers and the Kennedys but was too fragmented an individual to invite any comparisons. He had five sons by four different wives. He never invited them any of them to any of his weddings. He never attended his sons weddings and missed the funeral of his youngest son. All were part of the family business but none could live up to his expectations. He wound up changing his will over twenty times as a way to "punish" his families disloyalty.

He spent the last twenty five years of his life at his Sutton Place estate, located about twenty miles from London. The estate was surrounded by double barbed wire fences and patrolled by plainclothes guards. As if this was not enough, he kept about twenty five German Sheppard attack dogs, just in case. He still managed to maintain control over the company even though his fear of flying kept him from visiting the headquarters in Los Angeles.

In 1957, Fortune Magazine declared him to be the richest man in the world. This did not preclude him from some strange habits such as installing pay phones in his home and saving bits of string. He was often delighted when he had saved up enough string to tie up packages. He was also known to wash his own underwear throughout his lifetime.

The most famous incident detailing Getty's eccentricities and penny pinching was his refusal to pay the ransom for his kidnapped grandson J.Paul III. The kidnappers eventually cut off the boys right ear.

Always a fan of the arts, Getty left virtually his entire estate to the J. Paul Getty Museum Trust. Its collection makes it one of the worlds richest cultural institutions with a budget about 25 times the size of the New York Metropolitan Museum. Some critics of the museum have charged that it has not been aggressive enough in broadening it's collection to include "modern art" and it also has come under some scrutiny regarding the authenticity of some of its purchases.

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