His son, Balthazar, confirmed the death through a publicist. The statement says J. Paul Getty III died Saturday in England, surrounded by family.
Born into vast wealth, J. Paul Getty III gained notoriety when he was kidnapped in Rome in 1973. When the family reportedly stalled on paying a ransom, the kidnappers cut off part of his ear, sending the severed organ to a newspaper to prove they had taken him captive.
The oil heir, then 16, was freed after five months in captivity and a payment of $2.7 million.
He later suffered a stroke while undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse in 1981.