PAINFULLY RICH: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty by John Pearson

PAINFULLY RICH: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty

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How one very rich son-of-a-bitch built an empire and destroyed his own family, from Pearson (The Private Lives of Winston Churchill, 1991, etc.). Second-generation millionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty (1892-1976) was disinherited by his puritan father because of the younger Getty's profligate lifestyle: As the result of what he called ""matrimonial fever,"" J. Paul married five times (once bigamously), sired five children (of record), and had many, many mistresses. He also succumbed to the charms of Europe and European nobility, neither of which appealed to his provincial pa. Not put off by the disapproving last will and testament, J. Paul eventually got his hands on the old man's money (through his doting mother, Sarah, the principal beneficiary) and parlayed that modest fortune into what Pearson terms an ""outrageous"" one--over a billion dollars in personal assets. All of which might have been a mere twist on the American dream if it weren't for the utter mess J. Paul made of his personal life--or, rather, the lives of everyone closest to him. Getty had almost nothing to do with his sons until they were old enough to take part in the family business. But even then, J. Paul played favorites and pitted brother against brother until the eldest, George, committed suicide, and his half-brother, Paul Junior, became a drug addict. But the cruelest lot fell to one of the next generation: Jean Paul HI, who was kidnapped for five months in Italy, lost an ear while his grandfather refused to pay the $17 million ransom, became an alcoholic, eventually fell into a coma, and emerged almost blind and quadriplegic. Pop-journalistic, unbalanced in favor of those who seem to have cooperated with the author (who offers no source notes), notably Paul Junior's ex-wife, Gail, and an absorbing read.

Pub Date: Nov. 27th, 1995
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: St. Martin's