Stolen Getty diaries offered for auction: Sons of 'wealthiest man in the world' late to discover theft

THE diaries of the late J Paul Getty, once reputedly the richest man in the world, turned up for auction in a small town in the United States before his descendants knew that they had been stolen.

The 29 volumes of diaries kept by the oil tycoon, art collector and womaniser between 1938 and 1976, reappeared in Greenwich, Connecticut, with a price estimate of dollars 500,000 ( pounds 336,000) attached. They had apparently been stolen between Getty's death in 1976 and last year.

They had passed through several hands before being submitted for sale to Historical Documents International, a specialist company in Bedford, New Hampshire, according to Vanni Treves of Macfarlanes, the London lawyer who acts for J Paul Getty Jnr.

The unnamed vendors had bought the diaries in good faith, Mr Treves said this week, and the auctioneers proved uncooperative when asked to cancel the sale. It took a legal injunction, brought by Ronald Getty, to stop the auction, scheduled for 19 March.

Getty had three sons, J Paul Jnr and Gordon, who are full brothers, and Ronald, by another marriage. In the will, the diaries were left to Ronald, who was living in South Africa at the time of his father's death.

He put them into store and apparently forgot all about them - until rudely awakened by the announcement of their forthcoming sale. By the time the family lawyers got in touch with the auctioneers, widespread interest had been expressed and the price forecast had risen to dollars 1m (about pounds 670,000), Mr Treves said.

None of the sons was inclined to pay such a sum for their father's diaries, although they are all enormously wealthy. Negotiations are now under way for the J Paul Getty Trust to buy the diaries.

Getty had left his residual estate to the small museum he had founded in Malibu, California, which doubted whether it could use all the income on the capital and converted itself into a trust to widen its spending scope. The trust is capitalised at about dollars 4bn ( pounds 2.7bn).

No one knows the contents of the 29 closely written volumes, which Getty wrote up almost every day of his life, but members of the family seem to have decided to risk what he may have said about them getting out.

He fought with all his sons - and their mothers - at some time or other, but they have already lived through so many sensational media stories - over kidnapping, heroin addiction and tragic deaths - that publicity is nothing new. Much of the material appears to be extremely boring, however. Getty was the master of banal comment. The auction catalogue quotes some of his entries:

On Montgomery: 'Lunch with Field Marshal Montgomery. Fascinating man, 72, 5ft 7in, slender, active. I listened with great interest as he told me his impressions of Mr K, Mao, Tito, Eisenhower.'

On John F Kennedy: 'The radio said President Kennedy shot . . . appalling tragedy.'

On Julius Caesar: '2,000 years ago today Julius Caesar was assassinated. I have always considered him as the ablest man that history records.'

Mr Treves said that the J Paul Getty Trust would be well placed to produce transcripts of the semi-legible, hand-written diaries and make them available to scholars.

Scott Winslow, speaking on behalf of Historical Documents International, confirmed this week that private negotiations for the sale of the diaries were in progress.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Building Manager / Head Porter

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Medical Copywriter / Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Clerk / Debriefer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading temperature contro...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific