Money did not buy an easy life for J. Paul Getty III.
The father of Balthazar Getty and grandson of oil tycoon and art museum namesake J. Paul Getty died Saturday in Buckinghamshire, England, after a long illness. He was 54.
The Minnesota-born and Italy-raised heir had been in ill health since a drug-induced stroke he suffered in 1981 left him paralyzed and nearly blind.
"He taught us how to live our lives and overcome obstacles and extreme adversity and we shall miss him dearly," Balthazar said of his dad in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.
Getty, who had two children and six grandchildren, was famously kidnapped in Rome in July 1973 when he was just 16 years old. Four months later, the kidnappers cut off Getty's ear, and then sent it along with a lock of hair and a photo of the teen to prove it was his missing ear to an Italian newspaper with their third ransom demand, per the Times. The kidnappers vowed that they would return the boy "piece by piece" until they got paid.
As the story goes, Getty's billionaire grandfather and father had refused to pay without seeing evidence, believing initially that it was a stunt from Getty to get money, hence the third ransom request.
J. Paul ultimately paid $2.2 million to get his grandson back, and charged his son, who was known as Paul Getty, interest on the considerable sum. Getty was found in southern Italy five months after he disappeared.
The dysfunction continued upon his return. When the billionaire J. Paul died in 1976, he left $500 to Paul and nothing to his grandson—who had married too young, according to his grandfather. Getty also struggled with addiction.
After the debiliating stroke, he and his mother sued his father for money to cover his considerable medical expenses.