Oil Tycoon Heir John Gilbert Getty Dead At 52: Inside The Family Curse

[John Gilbert Getty] Found Dead In Texas Hotel Room: Inside The Grizzly Scene
Source: Ivy Getty /Instagram

Nov. 24 2020, Updated 4:21 p.m. ET

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Despite a massive family fortune, numerous members of the Getty family have been plagued by unthinkable tragedy. Oil tycoon J. Paul Getty’s grandson John Gilbert Getty is the latest Getty to have died, at just 52 years old.

The heir to the estimated $5 billion family fortune was found unresponsive in his hotel room in San Antonio, Texas, on Friday, November 20. 

It’s unclear how he died, and an autopsy has not happened yet. However, foul play is not suspected. 

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"With a heavy heart, Gordon Getty announces the death of his son, John Gilbert Getty," a spokesperson for Gordon Getty told PEOPLE

"John leaves behind his daughter, Ivy Getty, whom he loved beyond measure, and his brothers Peter and Billy. His brother, Andrew, predeceased John. John’s mother, Ann Gilbert Getty, passed this September," the statement read. "John was a talented musician who loved rock and roll. He will be deeply missed."


John’s daughter Ivy posted a slew of photos with her father via Instagram on November 21. "I hate to post something so soon, but people have taken it upon themselves to share the news I wish I could have released myself," she began.

"I’ll write something better later .... my father was awesome — coolest man to ever land on this planet and I will forever be the proudest daughter. Love you so much Dad … life is cruel sometimes .... I have not one, but two guardian angels watching over me now … here are some of my favorite pictures of him (and selfishly a couple of us)," she continued. 

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This is hardly the first time the Getty family has been in the news. In 2015, Andrew Rork Getty was found dead at his Los Angeles home and was discovered "halfway in the bathroom in the hallway," L.A. coroner Ed Winter told PEOPLE at the time. "He was partially clothed and it looked like he was trying to get to the bathroom."

Apparently, Andrew, 47, told his assistant he wasn’t feeling well several days earlier. "He had been uncomfortable for about two months and finally made an appointment with a doctor for today but he didn’t make it," Winter said. "He wasn’t able to make his appointment."

Despite Andrew’s drug problems, the coroner believes "he had been clean and sober for some time."

Los Angeles Police Department spokesman Commander Andrew Smith noted that Andrew's death "does not appear to be a criminal act." However, Andrew’s ex-girlfriend Lanessa DeJonge found his body and had been ordered by a judge to stay away from the home, a restraining order filed by Andrew said. 

The family patriarch, J. Paul, made a fortune from working on his father’s oilfields and was already a millionaire at 25 years old. Over time, his personal tragedies were frequently discussed, beginning with his youngest son, Timothy Ware Getty, who died of a brain tumor at 12 years old in 1958. 

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In 1971, Talitha Pol — the wife of J. Paul’s oldest son, Eugene Paul Getty — died from a heroin overdose. (Eugene later changed his name to Sir John Paul Getty). 

Two years later, Sir John Paul’s eldest son, J. Paul Getty III, was kidnapped by Italian gangsters when he was living in Rome, Italy. In order to be set free, the kidnappers demanded $17 million, but his grandfather didn’t want to shell out the money and put his other 14 grandchildren at risk

Eventually, his grandfather handed over the funds after the kidnappers mailed his grandson’s severed ear to an Italian newspaper. The billionaire negotiated a payment of $2.2 million, and Getty III was released five months later after he was first kidnapped. 

Even though Getty III's life was saved, he overdosed in 1981, which left him blind and in a wheelchair until he died in 2011 at 54 years old. Getty III’s father, Sir John Paul, checked himself into rehab in 1984 after the traumatizing incident involving his son and died at 70 years old in 2003. 


That same year, Getty Sr.’s oldest son, George Franklin Getty, died from a mixture of drugs and alcohol, in addition to a self-inflicted wound.

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