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They had passed through several hands before being submitted for sale to Historical Documents International, a specialist company in Bedford, New Hampshire, according to Vanni Treves of Macfarlanes, the London lawyer who acts for J Paul Getty Jnr.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?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot