billionaire J. Paul Getty refused to pay $17m ransom for his kidnapped Grandson. When the teenager’s severed ear arrived, he agreed $3m but only paid $2.2m… the maximum that would be tax deductable. He lent the other $800k to his son on the condition that he pay it back with 4% interest.
“On July 10, 1973 in Rome, kidnappers abducted 16-year-old John Paul Getty III
and, over the telephone, demanded $17 million for his safe return.
However, the family suspected a ploy by the rebellious teenager to
extract money from his miserly grandfather. John Paul Getty, Jr. asked his father for the money, but was refused.
In November 1973 an envelope containing a lock of hair and a human
ear arrived at a daily newspaper. The second demand had been delayed
three weeks by an Italian postal strike.
The demand threatened that Paul would be further mutilated unless the
victim’s paid $3.2 million: This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some
money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he
will arrive in little bits.
When the kidnappers finally reduced their demands to $3 million,
Getty senior agreed to pay no more than $2.2 million—the maximum that
would be tax deductible. He lent his son the remaining $800,000 at 4%
interest. Paul III was found alive in southern Italy shortly after the
ransom was paid. After his release Paul III called his grandfather to
thank him for paying the ransom but Getty refused to come to the phone. Nine people were later arrested for the kidnapping, but only two were convicted.
Paul III was permanently affected by the trauma and became a drug
addict. After a stroke brought on by a cocktail of drugs and alcohol in
1981, Paul III was rendered speechless, nearly blind and partially
paralyzed for the rest of his life. He died 30 years later on February
5, 2011 at the age of 54.
Getty defended his initial refusal to pay the ransom on two points.
First, he argued that to submit to the kidnappers’ demands would
immediately place his other fourteen grandchildren at the risk of
copy-cat kidnappers. He added:
The second reason for my refusal was much broader-based. I contend
that acceding to the demands of criminals and terrorists merely
guarantees the continuing increase and spread of lawlessness, violence
and such outrages as terror-bombings, “”skyjackings”” and the slaughter of
hostages that plague our present-day world. (Getty, 1976, pg.139).”