CORPORATIONS: The Unknown Giant

From under the white sands along the Persian Gulf two new oil wells gushed up 4,400 bbl. a day last week. The twin strike, in the Wafra field of the 50-mile-square Neutral Zone between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, meant more than just a new source of oil. For Wafra, it pushed output above 50,000 bbl. a day and increased estimated reserves to more than 5 billion bbl. For a tall, stoop-shouldered American named Jean Paul Getty, it was a multimillion-dollar payoff on a daring gamble.

Getty Oil Co., which is 82% owned by Getty and which controls a $1.5 billion...