Updated:
Original:
Year
1973
Month Day
December 15

Kidnapped grandson of Getty billionaire found

Jean Paul Getty III, the grandson of American billionaire J. Paul Getty, is found alive near Naples, five months after his kidnapping by an Italian gang. J. Paul Getty, who became the richest man in the world in 1957, had initially refused to pay his 16-year-old grandson’s $17 million ransom but finally agreed to cooperate after the boy’s severed right ear was sent to a newspaper in Rome. He eventually secured his grandson’s release by paying just $2.7 million, the maximum amount that he claimed he was able to raise.

Born in Minneapolis in 1892, Getty inherited a small oil company from his father. Through his autocratic rule and skillful manipulation of the stock market, Getty soon shaped Getty Oil into a massive financial empire. By 1968, Getty’s fortune exceeded $1 billion. However, the world’s wealthiest man did not live an ideal life. He is remembered as an eccentric billionaire who married and divorced five times and had serious relationship problems with most of his five sons.

In the final 25 years of his life, Getty lived near London, England, in an estate surrounded by double barbed-wire fences and protected by plainclothes guards and more than 20 German shepherd attack dogs. He was also a notorious miser–his installation of a payphone for guests in his English mansion is a famous example. Three years after failing to pay his grandson’s ransom in a timely manner, J. Paul Getty died at the age of 83.

His children and former wives fought bitterly over the inheritance of his fortune in court, but ultimately the bulk of his billions went to the J. Paul Getty Museum “for the diffusion of artistic and general knowledge.” Today, the Getty Museum, based in Los Angeles, is the most richly endowed museum on earth.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

On This Day in History: The US declares an end to the War in Iraq

U.S. declares an end to the War in Iraq

In a ceremony held in Baghdad on this day in 2011, the war that began in 2003 with the American-led invasion of Iraq officially comes to an end. Though December 15, 2011 was the official end date of the Iraq War, violence continued and in fact worsened over the subsequent years. ...read more

Architect of the Holocaust sentenced to die

In Tel Aviv, Israel, Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi SS officer who organized Adolf Hitler’s “final solution of the Jewish question,” is condemned to death by an Israeli war crimes tribunal. Eichmann was born in Solingen, Germany, in 1906. In November 1932, he joined the Nazi’s elite SS ...read more

Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens

On this day in 2001, Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens after a team of experts spent 11 years and $27 million to fortify the tower without eliminating its famous lean. In the 12th century, construction began on the bell tower for the cathedral of Pisa, a busy trade center on ...read more

Jockey Sandy Hawley wins record 500th race

On December 15, 1973, Sandy Hawley becomes the first jockey to win 500 races in a single year. Born in Ontario, Canada, Hawley began working at Toronto race tracks when he was a teenager. He won his first race in October 1968 at Toronto’s Woodbine race track and quickly racked up ...read more

James Brown begins his prison sentence

Legendary singer James Brown, also known as the “Godfather of Soul” and the “Hardest Working Man in Show Business,” becomes inmate number 155413 at the State Park Correctional Institute in South Carolina. Brown had had several run-ins with the law during the summer of 1988 that ...read more