J. Paul Getty was worth $6 billion when his 83-year old heart finally gave out in 1976. That's about $29 billion in today's cash.
His figurative heart gave out long before then, though.
In 1917, 25 year-old Getty paid $10k (about $214k in 2021 dollars) to Elsie Eckstrom in a paternity suit. Eckstrom was raped by Getty and gave birth to Paula, and sued for $100k in child support. He got the price down in court by arguing that Elsie was a whore. Paula would later catch the plague, she died without seeing her second birthday.
In 2013, Getty's fifth wife Louise (Teddy Getty Gaston), published her memoirs. In them she wrote about how she was scolded by Getty in the 1950's for spending too much money at the doctor's office on treatments for their blind 6-year-old son Timmy, who had a brain tumor.
In July of 1973, Getty's 16-year-old grandson JP Getty the Third was kidnapped by the Italian mafia 'Ndrangheta, widely considered one of the most powerful organized crime groups in the world. They demanded $17 million from Getty for his release. Getty thought his grandson was in on it and just wanted the money. So he refused to pay. Meanwhile the kidnappers, always in masks, kept the 16-year-old chained up in several different hideaways, including a cave. He befriended a bird in the cave, the kidnappers killed the bird. Finally, 4 months later in November, the mafia cut off the grandson's ear and sent it to Getty in the mail. Getty negotiated the ransom down to $3 million. His lawyer advised him that $2.2 million was the maximum that was tax-deductible. Getty paid $2.2 million to the kidnappers and loaned the remaining $800k to Getty the Second with 4% compounded interest. Soon after his release, Getty the Third became addicted to drugs and alcohol. In 1981 he drank a cocktail of alcohol, Valium and meth which put him in the hospital with a stroke and liver failure. He lived out the rest of his days as a partially blind quadriplegic who was unable to speak.
Jean Paul Getty made his money the way most billionaires do, by inheriting the extractive family business and wealth and expanding it by being rich at the right time. During the Great Depression he bought up bankrupt oil corporations around the country, eventually consolidating them all into Getty Oil. In 1948, Getty learned to speak Arabic and struck a deal with the King of Saudi Arabia. He paid Ibn Saud $9.5 million in cash, guaranteed $1 million a year and 55 cents per barrel of oil in exchange for the oil rights to the undefined area between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. This agreement was the first of over 200 companies in the Middle East Getty bought the controlling interest in. Most of the companies were oil extraction enterprises. Others included an aircraft manufacturer, a cafeteria company, insurance companies, hotels, a castle and a 72-room mansion.
Anyway, JP Getty's great granddaughter Ivy just had Nancy Pelosi officiate their wedding in San Francisco. Check out the pics in Vogue.