US industrialist whose oil companies and other interests, reputed to be worth over $500 million, made him one of the world's wealthiest individuals.
Getty attended the universities of Southern California and Oxford before joining his father's successful oil-prospecting company. A dollar millionaire at the age of twenty-four, Getty became president of George F. Getty Incorporated in 1930, on the death of his father, and inherited the estate estimated at $15 million. By judicious share acquisition during the Depression, he took control of Tidewater Associated Oil Company in 1937 and ten years later he became president of Mission Corporation and Getty Oil Company. This formed the base of his business empire, which eventually included over a hundred companies worldwide.
Getty, a reclusive man, married five times and was also a noted art collector. In 1953 he founded the J. Paul Getty Museum at Malibu, California, which now houses a remarkable collection of paintings, drawings, sculptures, and books in a facsimile Roman villa. His British home, the Tudor manor house Sutton Place in Surrey, is now an arts centre. His son, the prominent philanthropist Sir John Paul Getty Jr (1932– ), became a British subject.