BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Profile: Sir John Paul Getty II
John Paul Getty
Sir John Paul Getty II: Devoted to Britain
Sir John Paul Getty II was born in America but has lived in Britain since 1971.

Although he keeps a low profile in public, the 68-year-old is considered by many as probably the greatest philanthropist to have lived in the UK.

Priot to his donation of 5m to the Conservative party, he is reported to have given away more than 120m of his oil fortune to deserving causes in Britain, to which he has expressed his devotion.

In one of his rare interviews, Sir Paul, who shuns publicity, said: "I think that since I've lived here and been happy here for such a long time, I think it's my duty here.

As long as I have money, I will give it away

Sir John Paul Getty II
"I certainly don't intend to live in America again. I intend to be buried here."

It is his love for Britain and what he calls "the British way of life" which has prompted him to donate 5m to the Conservative Party following its general election defeat.

In a statement released by the party, he said: "The Conservative Party, in my view, is the party best equipped to defend the British way of life.

"I hope that my donation will help to enable a new leader to deliver a Conservative victory at the next election."

Passion for cricket

Sir Paul's most famous past donations include 50m to the National Gallery, 20m to the British Film Institute, and 1m to keep Canova's Three Graces statue in Britain.

He has also given away millions in smaller donations, often anonymous, to other charities and causes including cash-strapped students and families of striking British miners.

He once said: "As long as I have money, I will give it away."

Sir Paul has a passion for cricket and has given thousands to cricket schools, clubs and retiring players starting businesses.

He also donated 2m towards the construction of the Mound Stand at Lord's, and 50,000 towards the rebuilding of The Oval.

At Wormsley Lodge, Sir Paul's 2,500-acre estate on the border of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire in the Chilterns, his pride and joy is his own oval cricket ground.

Son kidnapped

Sir Paul inherited his fortune from his oil magnate father, reportedly the world's richest man, who died in 1976 and had a reputation as a miser and a tough taskmaster.

When Sir Paul's son, John Paul Getty III, was kidnapped in Italy in 1973, he asked his father to help pay the ransom, and was refused.

The boy's grandfather only changed his mind after one of the boy's ears was cut off and sent to a newspaper.

In the week before Christmas in1997, Sir Paul became a British citizen.

When he went to the US Embassy to hand in his old passport, officials tried to convince him that he was making a mistake, but Sir Paul was fulfilling a 30-year dream to become British.

It also cleared the way for an honorary knighthood, received for services to charity in 1986, to be converted to the full honour in 1998.

After the ceremony, Sir Paul said: "It means a great deal to me.

'Proud subject'

"I am proud to be a subject of Her Majesty.

"I always loved British history when I was at school.

"I loved Shakespeare and all things British.

"My father lived here and I came over to see him from 1950 - and I came to live here myself."

In 1956, Sir Paul married water polo champion Gail Harris, but they divorced in 1967.

His second wife, Talitha Pol, died of a drugs overdose at the age of 31.

On 29 December 1994, Sir Paul married his companion of 20 years Victoria Holdsworth.

Sir Paul's spokesman said later: "It was wholly thanks to Victoria, Mr Getty has said, that he fought his way back to health after being stricken for years by illnesses ranging from phlebitis (a disease which affects the veins) to broken bones from falls."

In 1999, Sir Paul, who is believed to have suffered from diabetes, had his gall bladder removed.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

13 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Getty gives 5m to Tories
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories