Getty heir is revealed to have second family in another city

Other clan kept secret for more than a decade

August 21, 1999|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gordon P. Getty, philanthropist, composer, family man, San Francisco socialite and heir to his father's oil fortune, has secretly kept a second family in Los Angeles for more than a decade, sources have confirmed to the San Jose Mercury News.

The Los Angeles branch, hidden from public life and living under a different last name, consists of three girls and their mother, the Getty family has confirmed through a spokesman. The Southern California clan is in negotiations with Getty for inheritance rights from the man once listed by Forbes magazine as the richest in America, a source close to the family said.

The existence of the second Getty family only recently came to the attention of his San Francisco family, four adult sons -- Peter, John, Andrew and William, also known as Billy -- and Ann, his wife of more than three decades.

In a statement approved by Gordon and Ann Getty and released to the Mercury News on Thursday by a family spokesman in New York, Gordon Getty said: "Nicolette, Kendalle and Alexandra are my children. Their mother, Cynthia Beck, and I love them very much. The most important concern is that the children's needs be addressed with a minimum of disruption, and this will be our first priority. The Getty family has been fully supportive throughout this situation, and for that, I am very grateful."

Getty is sailing in Europe and could not be reached for comment. A lawyer for the trust declined comment but said Getty would return in about a week. The statement had been drawn up a few months ago by the Gettys, who feared the news would become public.

The spokesman declined to elaborate on the statement. A source close to the family confirmed Getty's claim of family support. His wife, Ann, reportedly is not considering divorce.

The sources declined to describe the reaction of Getty's family but said family members learned of the affair when an outsider discovered and exposed the dual life to them.

Born Dec. 20, 1934, Gordon Getty is the fourth of five children of oil baron J. Paul Getty. Gordon Getty and his family fill the society columns of San Francisco newspapers, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, from President Clinton to television star Don Johnson, whose wedding was held in April at the Gettys' Pacific Heights mansion. Mayor Willie Brown presided at the ceremony.

In February, according to a published report, a Clinton fund-raiser at the Getty estate raised $1 million to boost the Democrats' chances to regain control of Congress next year.

In a family that has seen more than its share of troubles, including divorce and drug overdoses, some have said that Gordon was the most stable and sensible of Jean Paul's surviving four offspring. One brother, the youngest, died at the age of 12.

The family patriarch, who died in 1976, was at one time the world's richest man. Miserly and shrewd, J. Paul Getty built an empire when he struck oil in the Middle East in 1953. Yet, according to one report, he was so tight-fisted that he kept a pay phone in his house for guests to use.

In a People magazine profile last year, Gordon Getty was described as the "straight man" of the siblings. He's the only family member on the board of the new museum, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, a $1 billion repository of classical art funded by the J. Paul Getty Trust that was 13 years in the making and opened to huge crowds in December 1997.

One of the most-awaited art museums in history, the sleek, cream-colored Getty Center is set in the Santa Monica Mountains with views of the Pacific Ocean.

Ann Getty is also very busy in high society, serving or having served on boards of trustees at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Francisco Opera and the New York Public Library, according to published reports.

Theirs is a life of the super-rich -- butlers, chefs and sumptuous parties. For Gordon Getty's birthday two years ago, his family threw him a bash that took its theme from India. The men wore turbans and mirrored earrings, and the women wore saris, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

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