How Oil and Perseverance Made Jean Paul Getty a Tycoon

On this day, December 15 in the year 1892, one of the richest oil tycoons in history was born in Minnesota, United States of America. His name was Jean Paul Getty, the founder of Getty Oil, now a part of Chevron Corporation.

Jean Paul Getty
Jean Paul Getty (

Jean Paul Getty was the son of a lawyer who owned a petroleum business. He earned a diploma in economics and political science from Oxford University in 1913. Even as a student, he worked at his father’s petroleum business whenever he was free from his studies. In 1916 and at the age of 23, he became a millionaire running his own oil company in Oklahoma. Because of his philandering, his father left him a mere $500,000 out of the $10 million estate. Nevertheless, he pursued his lifelong interest of accumulating wealth through business. He bought and sold oil leases and prospered even during the Great Depression.

In 1949, Jean Paul Getty inked a contract with the King of Saudi Arabia to explore oil in the kingdom. For four years and with more than $30 million spent, no oil was found but he persevered. He even learned to speak the Arab language. Then in 1953, 16 million barrels a day of black gold finally gushed forth from his wells. Hundreds of millions of profits from this operation enabled him to purchase several oil companies which he consolidated into Getty Oil Company in 1967. He also invested in many other unrelated business. By the early 1970s, he owned over 200 companies ranging from real estate to hotels and insurance to cafeteria. He purchased the famous 700-acre Sutton Place near London where he lived for his last 17 years and where he entertained the rich and the famous visitors.

Jean Paul Getty died of heart failure in 1976 at the age of 83. Known as womanizer, he married five times and had 6 children. At the time of his death, he was reportedly the richest in the world with a net worth estimated at $4 billion. He was the author of two books and a biography about him entitled “The Richest American” was published in 1960.


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