Besides my interest in the energy industry and its history, Getty's life is worth some study as it spanned the 20th century: he was born late in the 19th century, and came of age just before the First World War. He actively built the rise of the global oil industry, powering one of the largest and fastest transformations in human history. His era was a time of huge technology advances, and also, violence on an unprecedented scale.
In all, Getty had a remarkable life. This book didn't discuss business as much as I'd expect, but his rules seem clear enough: be damn good at your field; be honorable and financially prudent; hire good/great people; be hands-on wherever necessary. Luck is involved in success - but luck increases with hard work and determination. Be gracious, and have a sense of humor. Aim to have supportive family. Oh, and develop a thick-skin - the further up you go, the more people will try to kiss butt, be envious, etc. Also, despite all the wealth in the world: his marriages didn't work out; and his son died unexpectedly.
- Opens with Lincoln quote, which actually did not come from Lincoln:
You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot further the Brotherhood of Man by encouraging class hatred. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn. You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative. You cannot help men permanently by dong for them what they could and should do for themselves.
— (not Lincoln)
- Ch.2: As he was considered the richest man on Earth for a time, he
feels himself a public exponent of the rich. But he argues that it's
impossible to really measure his wealth - most of it is in assets,
not cash, and assets aren't truly priced until they're sold. He
guesses that if he sold off every asset, the proceeds would be 10-20
billion; but then taxes would hit.
- Big difference between personal wealth, and controlled wealth.
- Ch.3: inequality is present in all human activities, so it is with
wealth. He points out that almost all his wealth is invested in
business that employs others; that wealth is also taxed, sometimes
- Free enterprise "…is the only engine that has been developed so far that encourages people to be innovative, to develop new products and processes." - Otto Eckstein
- Nationalized enterprises, e.g. USPS, can't seem to operate profitably. So how is that just or good?
- Like others, points out that if all money in the world were redistributed equally, the situation would not last long at all.
- Nature is rife with inequalities; of course it shows up in human society. Getty doesn't feel guilty about it because he uses his privilege productively.
- Ch.4: He kept a diary from a young age, at least 12; first notes on
his father's (George Getty) first oil field purchase in OK was
from 1904. His father was very lucky/capable in finding oil. Paul
started in the oil business in summers, as a teenager, father had
him working from the bottom ranks. He was soon mentored to be a tool
dresser, or "toolie" in how to maintain the drilling equipment.
- Traveled to Japan/China in 1912; also started at Oxford.
- After 1914, father offered him to run family business for a year, to try it out.
- Used a banker friend to win a lease: when others saw the bank present and willing to bid, they dropped out. Getty got the lot for "astoundingly" low price of $500. Soon found oil, and luck turned from there. Became millionaire quickly.
- Ch.5: retired, joined new US Air Force but saw no action, went to Southern CA for weather and women but took up oil drilling there soon after arriving. Because of his field experience, earned his men's respect. During Roaring 20's, he and his father did not speculate on stock market. Father died in April 1930, at which point he had to take over the business.
- Ch.6: knew that it was a good time to buy assets, prices low from Great Depression. Took on buying Tidewater Corp. without knowing that Rockefeller was the major shareholder; eventually able to buy it with some luck. Mother passed away Dec. 1941. War broke out, he wanted to enlist, but instead took on transforming Spartan Aircraft company into war readiness. In short, he became a multi-industry, hands-on business leader.
- Ch.7: early youth, dating girls, tranquil times of Edwardian England; borrowed his dad's car without permission until wine incident; then made his own car, which he passed on to his Dad when he left for Oxford.
- Ch.8: Oxford days: students had to learn, and not be taught, under
the Oxford tutorial system.
- Getty found Oxford far less snobby than UC Berkeley. At Oxford, it was the unpardonable sin to speak about family wealth.
- Met and befriended Edward VIII ("David"), the Duke of Windsor.
- Ch.9: travels through Europe:
- Germany: observed much nationalistic and militaristic bluster.
- Denmark: peaceful, efficient democracy.
- Sweden: smart industrialists and agriculturalists
- Russia: bureaucratic fatalism, but people were generous.
- Visited many other countries, including Hungary and Austria; Greece and Spain; entertaining stories.
- In France by 1914 summer; war was thought impossible, but erupted then, canceling vacation plans with parents; they sailed home September 12, 1914.
- Ch.10, observations of inequity of Versailles peace treaty; also
remarks on Edward VIII, Prince of Wales - believes he was too
popular with the people, and too opinionated to be controlled by UK
- Retold how David Edward - who spoke Austrian-accented German - met with Hitler in October 1937 and tried to talk sense. Getty asserts the man was far from a fascist, Nazi sympathizer, or an anti-semite, as many have accused him of being.
- Ch.11, opens with observing the happy marriage between David Edward
and Wallis Simpson and their long marriage, then discusses his five
marriages, five divorces record.
- Even he notes that his various wives chose to marry him more than the other way around.
- Notes on why he preferred younger women: he notes that unmarried women become more peevish and fractious as they age.
- His business always came first, which caused friction. Hard to change habits of life after age 30.
- Married for beauty and intelligence, but with first two wives, without much thought to compatibility.
- Ch.12, meeting Adolphine Helmle; mistaken dinner tab incident. Got
along well with Getty's parents, but her parents didn't like Paul.
- Getty's father died shortly after having child with Adolphine; her father gave an ultimatum that Paul had to live full-time in Germany, or divorce.
- Believes that had her father not interfered, this marriage would have worked.
- 4th marriage to Ann Rork did not last long, she wanted him to stop working.
- 5th marriage, to Louise Dudley Lynch; 20-year gap in age. But they both wanted to pursue their own careers.
- He never divorced any of his wives; they all divorced him.
Unfortunately, it seems to be true that a marriage license can ruin a relationship between a man and a woman faster and more completely than anything else. Before marriage, many couples are very much like people rushing to catch an airplane; once aboard, they turn into passengers. They just sit there.
- Still, he could remain friends with most of his ex-wives.
- Ch.13, notes on women/feminism
- Observes that women had more respect in 19th century than today.
- "men and women are not the same in nature, temperament, emotions and emotional responses"
- Generally finds men more objective, women more subjective.
- Women have phenomenal memories when it comes to perceived broken promises.
- At Spartan Aircraft, 1/3 workforce was women; noted that women
would know their limits but men would not. But women could not
take criticism, while men could.
Neither sex is perfect, nor a paragon of virtues compared to the other, and in this sense they are certainly equal.
- No wife ever wanted to downgrade lifestyle.
- Alimony: he had to pay a lot of it.
Each of my wives was jealous and resentful of my preoccupation with business. Yet none showed any visible aversion to sharing in the proceeds of that preoccupation.
- Alimony: he had to pay a lot of it.
- Ch.14, some thoughts on marriage, esp. with businessmen
- Business men are creative types like artists, and can be temperamental; a good wife should know and accept that.
- No matter a man's worldly success, he needs a good wife to be his companion.
- Ch.15, sons
- Don't overrate your sons; don't force your own views on them.
- Ch.16, Paul Jr.
- Given Rome/Italian operations.
- Ch.17, death of Paul Jr.; kidnapping of Paul III
- Ch.18, crime observations
- Fear of punishment works; it's what many/most understand.
- In favor of capital punishment for certain crimes.
- Ch.19, observations on democracy
- Getty protests/argues that businessmen have far less political power than most believe.
- Ch.20, big government waste
- If it was bad in 1970's, he'd be foaming at the mouth today!
- Critiques welfare, incentives to not work.
- Ch.21, more critique of government waste
- Getty warned of fiscal irresponsibility, inflation dangers.
- Certainly, today's debt levels would floor him.
- Ch.22, on being American
- Critiques of presidents; not impressed with most, esp. Lyndon Johnson.
- Believes Nixon was good?! Noted his scandal wasn't worse than others', and press reports of his personality were wrong.
- Ch.23, Hollywood observations
- Mixing of oil and movie entrepreneurs was frequent, both industries were major wealth-builders at the time in California.
- Other chapters: a few on oil business, meeting with Mid-East leaders; also discussed Sutton Place history and living there.
- Ch.33, China observations
- Noted that Chinese keep their word and are loyal to friends.
- Discusses art, opening of Getty Art Museum; kept free for the public, not appreciated by the neighbors who had to put up with more traffic.
- Discusses how people write him for money; he replies with form letters.
- Discusses how media has no clue as to how his life is really like.
- Discusses how companies that are like families are on their way out.
- Closes with opening Lincoln quote.