“Poor Little Rich Boys,” a review of PAINFULLY RICH: The Outrageous Fortune and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty

Henriques, Diana B.

The New York Times Book Review, December 10, 1995

Pearson portrays the 7 deadly sins in the J. Paul Getty heirs as “a tragedy,” but Henriques sees mere vulgarity. These people (with suicide, addiction, embitterment, family feuding, million-dollar family lawsuits, “emotionally abusive and sumptuous vacations,” etc.) were victims not of money but “of their own hunger for that money, and their craven fear that it would somehow elude them.” Pearson tells of the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty III, 7/10/73, by Calabrian bandits who demanded 17 million. The granddaddy refused despite the mother’s pleas. Still, she was comforted by being able to move into a “livelier” apartment in Rome during the stalemate. On 10/21 the Calabrians mailed an ear of the grandson. J. Paul the First stood firm. “Finally the Calabrians reduced their demand to $3.2 million, and the senior Getty finally relented–sort of. He would pay the $2.2 million of the ransom that his accountants said was tax-deductible as a casualty loss under the tax code of the day, which limited such write-offs to 10% of one’s taxable income; the boy’s father would have to cover the rest, which he did by borrowing from his father at 4% interest.”