The Search For The Neo-Business Elixir

In Business on September 19, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Jean Paul Getty (1892-1976) was a billionaire independent oil producer who founded and controlled the Getty Oil Company and over 200 affiliated companies.

Jean Paul Getty was born on December 15, 1892, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father, George Franklin Getty, was a lawyer, but in 1904 he moved his wife, Sarah Risher Getty, and his son to the Oklahoma territory to begin a successful career as an independent oilman. Two years later the family moved to Los Angeles, California, where young Getty attended private school before graduating from Polytechnic High School in 1909. After a European tour he attended the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley; he spent his summers working on his father’s oil rigs as a “roustabout.” In 1912 Getty enrolled in Oxford University in England, from which he received a degree in economics and political science in 1914.

In 1914 Getty arrived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, determined to strike it rich as a wildcat oil producer. Although he operated independently of his father’s Minnehoma Oil Company, his father’s loans and financial backing enabled him to begin buying and selling oil leases in the red-bed area of Oklahoma. Getty saw himself as a modern oil man, relying on geological data and not simply on the instinct of the experienced veterans, but he also thrived on the excitement, gamble, risks, and high stakes of the oil business. Getty’s own first successful well came in in 1916, and by the fall of that year he had made his first million dollars as a wildcatter and lease broker.

For the next two years Getty “retired” to the life of a wealthy playboy in Los Angeles, but he returned to the oil business in 1919. During the 1920s he and his father continued to be enormously successful both in drilling their own wells and in buying and selling oil leases, and Getty became more active in California than in Oklahoma. He amassed a personal fortune of over three million dollars and acquired a third interest in what was to become the Getty Oil Company.

After his father’s death in 1930 Paul Getty became the president of the George Getty Oil Company (successor to Minnehoma Oil), but his mother inherited the controlling interest, as his father had been upset with his son’s profligate personal life. During the 1930s Getty followed several paths to both short-term and long-term success. His wells continued to produce, and profits poured in. He also bought a controlling interest in the Pacific Western Oil Corporation, one of the ten largest oil companies in California. After a series of agreements with his mother he obtained the controlling interest in the George Getty Oil Company, and he began real estate dealings, including the purchase of the Hotel Pierre in New York City.

The Getty Oil Company

Getty’s ambition was to build up an independent, self-contained oil business involving refining, transporting, and selling oil as well as exploration and drilling. To that end he began in the 1930s to gain control of the Tidewater Oil Company. Getty pursued that goal in a series of complicated maneuvers, which involved tilting with the giant Standard Oil of New Jersey, until in the 1950s he had control of Tidewater, Skelly Oil, and the Mission Corporation. In 1967 these companies merged into the Getty Oil Company, the foundation of Getty’s fortune. Getty had a majority or controlling interest in Getty Oil and its nearly 200 affiliated and subsidiary firms, and he remained its president until his death in 1976.

At the outbreak of World War II, Getty, a yachtsman, volunteered for service in the Navy, but his offer was rejected. At the request of Naval officers, however, he took over personal management of Spartan Aircraft, a Skelly and Getty subsidiary. The corporation manufactured trainers and airplane parts, and it later converted to the profitable production of mobile homes.

After the war Getty took a lucrative gamble on oil rights in the Middle East. In 1949 he secured the oil rights in Saudi Arabia‘s half of the Neutral Zone, a barren tract between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. He made major concessions to King Saud, which shocked the large oil companies, but after three years and a $30 million investment, Getty found the huge oil deposits which helped make him a billionaire.

In his business career, Getty continued to invest and reinvest; his fortune consisted not of cash, but stocks, corporate assets, and real estate. A loner, he saw himself as a solitary knight in fierce battle with the giant “Seven Sisters” oil firms, and that competitive urge fueled his desire to build a larger and larger fortune.

A “Public” Personal Life

In 1957 Fortune magazine published a list of the richest men in America. Getty’s name headed the list, and the resultant publicity turned the reclusive Getty into an object of public fascination and legend. Getty complained about the fame, the requests for money, and the assumption that he would pick up every restaurant check, but he also furthered his own legends: he wrote articles on such topics as “How To Be Rich” and pretended to poverty by wearing rumpled suits and threadbare sweaters. The public was fascinated by Getty’s wealth and extravagance and also by his reputed stinginess. After 1959 he stopped living out of hotel rooms and established his home and offices at Sutton Place, a 16th-century, 700-acre manor outside London. The huge estate, with its gardens, pools, trout stream, and priceless furnishings, was also a near garrison, with elaborate security arrangements. Giant Alsatian dogs had the run of the estate, and there were also two caged lions, Nero and Teresa. Numerous stories circulated about Getty’s penny-pitching; the most famous incident was the installation of a pay telephone on the Sutton Place grounds. Getty offered various explanations, but the public preferred to see the phone booth as a symbol of his stinginess.

The public also seemed to like to read into Getty’s life the lesson that money does not buy happiness. Getty was married five times: to Jeannette Dumont (1923), Allene Ashby (1925), Adolphine Helmle (1928), Ann Rork (1932), and Louisa Lynch (1939); each marriage ended in divorce. He had five sons, two of whom predeceased him, and his relationship with each of them was difficult. His grandson, J. Paul Getty III, was kidnapped in Italy in 1973. Although he was returned for a ransom, part of his ear had been cut off. Getty was a celebrity, and public interest, fueled by envy and admiration, focused on Getty’s tragedies as well as his billions.

Besides oil, Getty’s major interest was art. He began serious collecting in the 1930s – European paintings, furniture, Greek and Roman sculptures, 18th-century tapestries, silver, and fine Persian carpets, including the 16th-century Ardabil carpet from Tabriz. He housed his collection at Sutton Place and at his ranch house at Malibu, California, one wing of which he opened as the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1954. In 1969 construction began on a new Getty Museum, also on his Malibu property. The huge building is a replica of an ancient Roman villa found near the ruins of Pompeii, and the extensive Getty collection was moved thereafter his death.

Jean Paul Getty died at Sutton Place on June 6, 1976; he is buried on his Malibu estate.

Further Reading

Getty wrote two autobiographies, My Life and Fortunes (1963) and As I See It (1976). He wrote about his art collection in The Joys of Collecting (1965) and published such advice books as How To Be Rich (1965) and How To Be A Successful Executive (1971). A biography written with Getty’s cooperation is Ralph Hewins, The Richest American: J. Paul Getty (1960); the New York Times obituary of June 6, 1976, also provides useful information. In The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World They Shaped (1975) Anthony Sampson discusses Getty’s role as an independent oil producer. Two biographies in 1986 added little new information: The House of Getty by Russell Miller and The Great Getty: The Life and Loves of J. Paul Getty – Richest Man in the World by Robert Lenzner.

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God Hates A Fag: The World View of An Accepted Religion

The relationship between cults and drug use is complex and contradictory. Traditionally, cults are groups that diverge from major religions or that form new philosophical/religious systems, often around a charismatic leader. Consequently, at any given time, it may be difficult to distinguish a cult from a newly formed religion. Some cults last and become new religions; some remain cults, some die. The line is hard to draw and open to interpretation, even by social scientists and the clergy who specialize in this field.


Historically, some cults and cultlike groups have sponsored the use of drugs as an integral aspect of ritual. In ancient Greece, for example, the use of ergot (genus Claviceps), a fungus that grows on grains and causes hallucinations, appears to have played a significant role in the rituals of the Eleusinian mysteries, celebrated in worship of the goddesses Demeter and her daughter Persephone. As poets noted, “I have seen the truth within the kernel of wheat”—a foreshadowing of the Countercultural Revolution/Love Generation, when a purified ergot derivative (LYSERGIC ACID DI-ETHYLAMIDE, LSD) offered a similar experience. Indeed, the word lysergic means “dissolving ergot.”

In Islam, alcohol is forbidden, but medieval Islamic sects were formed to use HASHISH (a form of Cannabis sativa, MARIJUANA). It came into use in the Islamic Middle East only centuries after the Prophet Mohammed (lived about 570 to 632) and his followers founded the Moslem religion; hashish was allegedly used to offer a taste of the paradise to come.

In pre-Columbian America, drugs of a wide variety were utilized in religious rituals; the Native American Church still continues to use the HALLUCINOGENS peyote and mescaline (both derived from the small cactus Lophophora williamsii). Recent court decisions have protected and reaffirmed the right of this church to use these drugs in religious ceremonies. As Preston and Hammerschlag (1983) have noted, this use of hallucinogens is rigidly controlled—part of a transcendent experience, accompanied by rituals of purification, and not lending itself to use on a promiscuous basis.


The 1960s and 1970s were characterized by an extraordinary youth movement of baby-boomers with an intense interest in the cultic and the occult—and by a popularization of drug use within mainstream American society. Some of this interest was fueled by the philosophies and practices of Asia, especially Southeast Asia, where the Vietnam War was being fought; some was inspired by the Shangri-La nature of the lands of the Himalayas, where Buddhism was practiced in secluded monasteries and nirvana was sought. As the “Greening of America” proceeded through these two decades, mind-altering joined ALCOHOL and NICOTINE, becoming available on the street, and were no longer confined to the disenfranchised or marginal. There was an increasing juxtaposition of the so-called transcendent religious experience (the mind-expanding experience) with drug use that often became drug abuse.

This juxtaposition had been anticipated by some earlier poets, such as William Blake (1757-1827), Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), and Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), by the illustrator Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), and by cult figures such as Aleister Crowley (born Edward Alexander Crowley, 1875-1947). By combining aspects of their own experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs with elements of Transcendental Meditation/Mahareshi (movements based on Buddhism) in their song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (1967), the much adored singing group called the Beatles (the members born between 1940 and 1943, active as a group from 1960 to 1969) both mirrored and promoted the use of hallucinogens as providing a readily accessible transcendental experience—although in Buddhism the goal of all existence is the state of complete redemption (nirvana, a state achieved by righteous living, not by drugs). Unlike Aldous Huxley (1894-1963), who combined an interest in Vedanta (an orthodox system of Hindu philosophy) and the use of mescaline, the Beatles and their alleged mentor, the Mahareshi Mohesh Yogi, proclaimed the desirability of enlightening the masses rather than restricting enlightenment to a righteous educated elite.

In literary works of that era, such as Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City (1978), characters routinely advocate and use mind-altering substances (especially marijuana) without any apparent appreciation of their darker potential, which was consistent with the general attitude toward TOBACCO and alcohol use at that time as well. In addition, there was no special appreciation that drug use, in and of itself, might encourage cult affiliation, yet this was very much the time of the rapid growth of cults among youth in the United States.

The relationship of such cults to drug use is paradoxical. Deutsch (1983) has noted that prolonged drug use may encourage this type of cult affiliation, and many cult groups offer themselves to the public and to vulnerable persons as quasi-therapeutic contexts where the person will be able to transcend the need for drugs. This aspect of cult-appeal turned thousands of lost and confused free spirits and flower-children into vacant-eyed smiling cultists who signed over to the cult all their worldly goods—to spend their days wandering the streets, airports, and bus or train stations, seeking donations for their cult by shaking bells and tambourines or by offering flowers to passing strangers. Rigorous training programs, called “brainwashing” by parents of the lost children and by other skeptics, were fashioned to strip cultists of free will and substitute nodding acquiescence.


One charismatic cult leader was the Reverend Jim Jones, leader of the People’s Temple. His claim of curing drug abuse was only one of the lures. After moving around the United States for a while, he brought his followers to an isolated spot in South America, where one of the former substance abusers mixed for them a massive batch of poisoned Kool-Aid for the cult’s final event—a basically unexplained mass suicide.


The People’s Temple was not unique—organizations such as Narcanon (that is, narcotics anonymous) have stated that their treatment of substance abusers reflects the dianetics-based teachings of L. Ron Hubbard (born Lafayette Ronald Hubbard, 1911-1986), an American science-fiction writer, whose Scientology movement expanded in the 1950s when he moved to England (he was subsequently banned from re-entering England in 1968). Scientology is a quasi-philosophical system that claims to improve mental and physical well-being as followers advance within the cult, by undertaking (and paying well for) a series of courses.


Intense religious commitment is a significant aspect of much of the twelve-step recovery movement. Accordingly, there is concern that this level of commitment to a program can lead to a kind of cult affiliation. ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS (AA), the oldest, most constructive, and most respected of the TWELVE-STEP programs, is not considered a cult. Still, Rebhun (1983) and many others have noted the danger that drug-treatment programs can turn into cults such as SYNANON. Synanon was not unique; the history of residential drug-treatment centers includes a number of authoritarian and hierarchical organizations. Recovering substance-abusers often find it very difficult to leave the protection of the THERAPEUTIC COMMUNITY to become independent members of mainstream society. Often times program staff really help individual members overcome drug problems and other problems. Yet other times, a false resolution of these problems comes through fusion with an authoritarian and charismatic leader who will ostensibly provide the continuity and structure for which the substance abuser hungers.


Drugs and other mind-altering substances have formed an integral part of some cultic/religious rituals from very ancient times. In the mid-to-late twentieth century, the structure provided by groups that mobilize intense religious or quasi-religious feelings has sometimes enabled vulnerable individuals to transcend their personal difficulties. However, the very intensity of the substance user’s object hunger may enable the transformation of otherwise viable or valuable organizations into cults or cultlike groups.

(SEE ALSO: Religion and drug use)


DEUTSCH, A. (1983). Psychiatric perspectives on an Eastern-style cult. In David A. Halperin (Ed.), Psychodynamic perspectives on religion, sect, and cult. Littleton, MA: James Wright-PSG.

PRESTON, R., & HAMMERSCHLAG, C. (1983). The Native American Church. In David A. Halperin (Ed.), Psychodynamic perspectives on religion, sect, and cult. Littleton, MA: James Wright-PSG.

REBHUN, J. (1983). The drug rehabilitation program: Cults in formation? In David A. Halperin (Ed.), Psychodynamic perspectives on religion, sect, and cult. Littleton, MA: James Wright-PSG.

REICH, C. A. (1970). The greening of America. New York: Random House.

WASSON, R. G., HOFMANN, A.& RUCK, C. A. P. (1978). The road to Eleusis: Unveiling the secret of the mysteries. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.



“Cults and Drug Use.” Encyclopedia of Drugs, Alcohol, and Addictive Behavior. 2nd Ed. Ed. Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt. Macmillan-Thomson Gale, 2001. 2006. 19 Sep, 2010 <


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