Bankrupt! 65 Famous People Who Lost It All
Personal finance is all over the news lately what with the economy being in full on meltdown mode. It’s not always just average people who struggle though. Sometimes people make fortunes only to lose them later, for all sorts of reasons. We’ve compiled a list of 65 famous people who found themselves destitute despite once having been extremely well off. On to the list:
1. Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold fought on the American side of the Revolutionary War but didn’t get the attention he felt he deserved so he switched to the British side. He went bankrupt after the war when a failed financial venture caused him to lose everything.
2. P.T. Barnum
P.T. Barnum is best known for being half of the “Barnum & Bailey Circus” but he actually didn’t get into that until he was 61-years-old. He first opened a museum in New York City showcasing nature’s oddities like Tom Thumb who was only 2 feet 9 inches tall. He also put a bunch of dough into the development of East Bridgeport, Connecticut and went bankrupt when that didn’t work out. He bounced back in four years and got into the circus business.
3. Kim Basinger
Kim Basinger had to file for bankruptcy in 1993 when a judge ordered the actress to pay Main Line Pictures $8.1 million because she had backed out of a verbal commitment to star in the film Boxing Helena. She had to sell her $20 million investment in Braselton, in her native Georgia and only received $1 million for it. She later appealed the ruling, reached an out-of-court settlement and went on to her well-known role in L.A. Confidential a few years later.
4. George Best
George Best had a prolific career playing soccer starting, when he was 17-years-old, with the Manchester United team in 1963. He played soccer until 1984 and unfortunately fell into a life of alcoholism, which eventually caused liver problems and his eventual death. He declared bankruptcy in 1982 after he tried to get treatment for alcoholism and was discharged from bankruptcy in 1992.
5. John Wayne Bobbitt
John Wayne Bobbitt is best known for having his penis sliced off by his angry wife in 1993. Luckily, after a 12-hour surgery his penis was sewed back on but Bobbitt couldn’t handle the mounting doctors bills and had to declare bankruptcy. He made a come back by getting into porn but he can’t seem to stay out of trouble. (He’s been arrested more than seven times for offenses ranging from assault to grand larceny.)
6. Lorraine Bracco
Lorraine Bracco played the mob-psychiatrist Dr. Jennifer Melfi in the HBO hit The Sopranos. The popularity of the show helped her dig herself out of debt after she filed for bankruptcy in 1999. Bracco found herself in a five-year legal battle with ex-Harvey Keitel over custody of their daughter Stella. The legal fees and taxes were substantial and the cause for her bankruptcy.
7. Toni Braxton
Toni Braxton sold over 15 million albums in the years leading up to her 1998 filing for bankruptcy and some believe she filed so she could get out of her recording contract with record label LaFace. When she filed, Braxton was $3.9 million in debt and all of her household possessions, including the two Grammys she was awarded in 1997 were priced to sell so she could pay off her creditors. Despite her conflict with her label, she signed a new contract in 1999 worth $25 million with them.
8. Lenny Bruce
Lenny Bruce loved to shock audiences as a comedian and was constantly in trouble on obscenity charges. He was blacklisted from nearly every comedy club in the United States near the end of his life but it was the trial in 1961, in which he was in trouble for saying “cocksucker”, that caused him to go bankrupt. He ended up dying at age 40 from a morphine overdose and in 2007, was granted a posthumous pardon for his obscenity conviction by New York Governor George Pataki. Bruce would be blown away by what people can get away with today.
9. Buffalo Bill
Buffalo Bill organized his “Wild West Show” in the late 1800’s and went on to become quite wealthy. Even though he made millions touring the country, he was also very generous and gave away so much money that he had to file for bankruptcy in 1914. He died bankrupt in 1917 and was buried on Lookout Mountain.
10. Tia Carrere
Tia Carrere, best known for her role in Wayne’s World, filed for bankruptcy in 1986 in an attempt to escape her contract with General Hospital so she could join the cast of A Team. Apparently the soap was no longer giving Carrere enough work and was forcing her to go into bankruptcy. She lost the suit and the respect of her fellow cast mates on the show. Carrere blames her young age for the reason that she was so irresponsible with her money.
11. George Clinton
George Clinton has been called one of the most important innovators of funk music and was prevented from profiting from the songs he wrote between 1976 and 1983. This is because when he filed for bankruptcy in 1984, he didn’t disclose them as a source of possible future income. It’s estimated that he’s losing out on royalties in the ballpark of $100 million!
12. Gary Coleman
Gary Coleman filed for bankruptcy in 1999 and cited long-term medical problems and mismanagement of his funds as the reason. Coleman stayed out of the limelight after his bankruptcy until a recent secret marriage followed by an appearance on TV’s Divorce Court.
13. Francis Ford Coppola
Responsible for directing the Godfather trilogy and winner of five Academy Awards before he was 40, Francis Ford Coppola was $300,000 in debt before the first Godfather movie came out. He then was able to rebound but began bankruptcy proceedings after his 1982 musical One From The Heart tanked. Luckily, he borrowed the money from his mother to get into the wine business and again turned his financial future around.
14. David Crosby
David Crosby, a member of the group Crosby, Stills & Nash, filed for bankruptcy in 1985 after his solo career cooled down. He is still recording music and his third solo album was released in 2006.
15. Walt Disney
Walt Disney’s name is synonymous with Mickey Mouse and the “happiest place on earth,” Disneyland. However, Disney’s career wasn’t always a moneymaking venture. In 1921, he began a company called the Laugh-O-Gram Corporation in Kansas City, Missouri but was forced to file for bankruptcy two years later because his financial backers pulled out. It must have been fate because Disney then headed to Hollywood and became one of the highest paid animators in history.
16. Jim Dooley
Jim Dooley played for the NFL’s Chicago Bears from 1952 until he retired in 1962 and switched to coaching. Dooley sat out of the 1973 NFL season and landed a job one week after filing for bankruptcy. At that point, he was nearly half a million dollars in debt but rebounded by taking a job as a sales manager and ended up back with the Bears in 1981 as an offensive consultant.
17. William C. Durant
William C. Durant founded General Motors, Chevrolet and Durant Motors. Durant Motors was established in 1921 but unfortunately failed in 1933 after the Great Depression. Durant filed for bankruptcy in 1936 being $914,231 in debt and lived out the rest of his life managing a bowling alley in Flint, Michigan.
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