20 Questions

20 Questions: Gordon Getty

The investor, philanthropist, composer, economist and poet shares his favorite things.

BY WORTH | 20 Questions | Nov 2, 2018
Illustration by Graham Smith

Gordon Getty, 84, exited the family business in 1984 when he led the sale of Getty Oil to Texaco for $10.1 billion. Now an investor, philanthropist, composer, economist and poet, Getty devotes much of his time to the PlumpJack Group—owner of Napa wineries Cade, Odette, PlumpJack and a recently purchased Howell Mountain vineyard. At PlumpJack, Getty is partners with general manager John Conover and California gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom.

  • 01. What are you working on? Integrating our new winery acquisition on Howell Mountain into Cade Estate.
  • 02. What’s your latest creation? My opera Goodbye, Mr. Chips and my book Logic and Economics, which is in press, along with various papers.
  • 03. Your favorite city? San Francisco.
  • 04. What do you love about it? It’s compact and metropolitan.
  • 05. How many days a year do you travel? Six weeks, in all.
  • 06. Do you fly private or commercial? Private.
  • 07. Other than a phone or computer, what do you never travel without? A yellow pad for writing.
  • 08. What is your investment philosophy? Index funds.
  • 09. What’s the best business decision you ever made? My insert in the agreement with Pennzoil. [Getty agreed to sell Getty Oil to Pennzoil in 1984, then struck a deal to sell the company to Texaco, resulting in a law- suit ultimately resolved by the Supreme Court.]
  • 10. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business? Offending the emir in the Neutral Zone between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
  • 11. What’s more important, good luck or good sense? Good sense.
  • 12. What advice would you give to a younger you? Respect everybody, follow nobody.
  • 13. Beer, wine or spirits? PlumpJack, Cade and Odette wines.
  • 14. The most difficult part of co-owning a winery? Writing an opera? Regarding a winery, the inability to control Mother Nature. Regarding opera, finding a subject.
  • 15. Your favorite restaurant? Balboa Cafe on Fillmore Street in San Francisco.
  • 16. What kind of watch do you wear? A cheap Timex digital.
  • 17. What keeps you awake at night? Ideas in music or logic.
  • 18. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome? Acceptance by others of my music and economics as first rate.
  • 19. What do you deny yourself? Simple carbs and starches.
  • 20. How would you like to be remembered? As a composer, poet and economist.


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