Bankruptcy is never a nice thing but it can happen to anyone, no-matter how successful or famous you can find bankrupt celebrities too.
We’ve put together this list of 15 celebrities who went bankrupt to show it can happen to the best of us. Also, it’s a reminder that bankruptcy doesn’t have to mean the end.
15. Duncan James
Despite being part of boy band Blue, a band that has sold 15 million records worldwide, Duncan James was declared bankrupt in September 2013.
He had bought homes for his family, as well as one for himself, but was then hit hard by the property crash, meaning he couldn’t keep up paying his loans. He did say, however, that after declaring bankruptcy he felt relieved as he was able to start again.
The band as a whole were hit by financial troubles last year after it turned out their company, Blueworld Ltd., owed thousands to creditors.
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14. George Best
George Best is considered one of the best British footballers of all time and earned a place in the hearts of the nation. Nevertheless, his hedonistic lifestyle caused him a lot of problems – not least bankruptcy.
Best was signed as a professional player at the age of 17 and by the age of 18 he was being hailed as the new Stanley Matthews (one of the greatest English players, for those who don’t know their footie.)
However he became a heavy drinker and a womaniser and was eventually dropped from Manchester United for failing to attend training. In 1984 he was convicted for drink driving and spent 12 weeks in jail, and in 1988 he was forced to leave the flat he had been living in for 13 years with £70,000 in mortgage arrears.
He once said: “I spent 90 percent of my money on women, drink and fast cars. The rest I wasted.”
If you’re in debt, read our article on how to get out of debt.
13. Shane Filan
Another boyband, another bankruptcy, Shane Filan, member of Westlife, ended up £18 million in debt.
Instead of relying solely on making money from Westlife, Filan had – fairly sensibly – started to invest in building homes in Ireland. With his brother he took out mortgages to invest in land, however planning issues prevented them from building. When the property crash hit in 2009 banks started demanding their cash back, and Filan was left to pay back £55,000 each year.
In 2011 Westlife split, making it impossible for Filan to keep up with his repayments and in 2012 he was declared bankrupt.
However he has now recovered and is looking to carve a career as a solo singer…and for all you Westlife fans out there, he hasn’t ruled out a reunion at some point in the future!
12. Christopher Biggins
Christopher Biggins has been such a regular presence for such a long time that you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s never been out of work. He appeared in the comedy TV series ‘Porridge’, was a background dancer in ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ (if you didn’t know that already, you won’t be able to take your eyes of him next time you watch it), was a regular co-host on ‘Suprise Surpise’ and, more recently, was a contestant on ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get me out of here!’
Yet in the 1990’s Christopher Biggins went bankrupt. Not, as with a lot of those on this list, because of a failed business or investment venture, but because of socialising. Indeed Biggins admitted that he went bankrupt because he was still spending extortionate amounts of money taking friends out for meals and drinks even when he wasn’t working, accruing him debt he simply couldn’t pay back.
Despite all this, Biggins claims that bankruptcy was the best thing that ever happened to him and he is now more cautious on his spending. Although last year he did admit to having spent £45,000 on just one credit card… not something we’d recommend!
11. Meat loaf
Arriving on this list like a bat out of hell (forgive the cliche) is the American musician and actor Meat Loaf. He has sold more than 80 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time, and has also had a successful acting career (he was in ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ too – although if you missed him you weren’t paying attention!)
Yet, in 1983, Meat Loaf had to file for bankruptcy. A falling out between him and his songwriter (Jim Steinman) lead Meat Loaf into a drug habit and caused his second album, ‘Dead Ringer’, to be poorly received. He also faced several lawsuits, one being from Steinman, and he was eventually left with no other choice than to go bankrupt.
This was not the end for Meat Loaf, however. In 1993 he released ‘Bat out of Hell II’ after patching things up with Jim Steinman and this went on to sell 15 million copies.
10. Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye is considered one of the greatest rhythm and blues/soul singers of all time. His musical hits included such classics as ‘I heard it through the grapevine’ and ‘let’s get it on’.
However Gaye’s financial problems came as a result of his divorce. He owed his wife around $600,000 dollars and was unable to keep up payments so promised the royalties from his next album to her (ironically many of the songs on the album were about his feelings towards the divorce.)
It looked like Gaye may have been able to make a comeback. His song ‘sexual healing’ was a hit, however any chance of Gaye making his money back was stopped in its tracks in 1984 when he was shot dead by his father.
If you’re thinking of ending your marriage, read our 10 tips on saving money during a divorce.
9. Kim Basinger
Kim Basinger is an American Actress who first broke into the mainstream as a ‘Bond girl’ in the unofficial 1983 James Bond movie, ‘Never Say Never Again.’ She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in The Natural and went on to star in many more films including Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’ and ‘Cellular’.
However Basinger made several decisions which did not pay off financially. In 1989 Basinger bought the small town of Braseltown, Georgia for $20 million. She was then sued by a film studio for pulling out of the controversial and poorly received film ‘Boxing Helena.’ Basinger had to file for bankruptcy and ended up selling Braseltown, an investment that ‘nothing good came out of’ she later conceded.
8. Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson is a retired boxer (widely considered one of the best), a former ‘undisputed heavyweight champion of the world’ and one of the most recognisable names of the profession. He is known for his controversial style within the ring and perhaps most famously remembered for biting Evander Holyfield’s ear during a 1997 rematch.
Despite having earned $300 million during his career, Tyson was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2003 due to financial difficulties. Tyson has recently admitted to squandering money, saying that in a year where he had earned $65.7 million, he had spent $62 million, including spending $2.1 million on cars!
Mike Tyson retired from boxing in 2006 and admits he cannot any longer keep up with his IRS debts.
7. Mark Twain
Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was an American author and humourist and wrote ‘The adventures of Tom Sawyer’ and the sequel ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.’ He is also well known for his great quotes including ‘Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company’ and ‘When we remember we’re all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.’
However, despite earning a great deal of money, Twain found himself in financial trouble after investing in ventures and inventions that financially bombed. In particular, Twain’s investment in a mechanical typesetter, the Paige Compositor, was a big mistake because the device was imprecise and too complex. He was forced to file for bankruptcy to protect himself.
He was eventually able to overcome his financial problems and, quite admirably, paid back all his pre-bankruptcy creditors in full despite having no legal responsibility to do so!
6. Larry King
Larry King might not be a huge name in the United Kingdom, but in America he is big. From 1985 to 2010 he hosted ‘Larry King Live’ which was CNN’s most watched and longest running show, with over a million viewers each night. He is currently the host of ‘Larry King Now’ and ‘Politicking with Larry King’.
However, before his success King had racked up over $350,000 in debt and was accused of stealing from his business partner, Wall Street financier Louis Wolfson. He had to file for bankruptcy in 1978. In fact he then turned this around and became one of the most successful talk show hosts of all time should give us all hope!
5. Dionne Warwick
Dionne Warwick is the second most charted female vocalist of all time. She is responsible for some classic hits including ‘Heartbreaker’, ‘Do you know the way to San Jose’ and ‘I say a little prayer.’ At her height Warwick was earning $100,000 a month, but her finances now are a sad tale.
Due to ‘poor financial management’ Warwick ended up owing nearly $7 million to the Inland Revenue Service and more than $3 million in business taxes. She was forced to file for bankruptcy last year. Whilst many of the celebs on this list turned their lives around, Warwick’s is a sad story, becoming bankrupt at the age of 72.
4. Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga is a hugely successful singer with a large fan base and a back catalogue of number ones. She is as famous for her outlandish outfits (one of which was a dress made entirely from raw meat) as she is for her vocal talents.
Gaga’s bankruptcy is perhaps one of the strangest on this list as it came during the height of her fame. She went bankrupt in 2009 during her Monster’s Ball Tour after throwing all her money into the staging and costumes, landing her in $3 million worth of debt.
Gaga said during an interview that it was her complete lack of interest in money that was responsible for this (showing she really does live for the applause) which, depending on your perspective, makes her either a pure visionary artist or a bit of a lunatic! Certainly very different to Madonna who is nothing if not money-minded.
Thankfully the tour went on to bring in $138 million and she is now worth $190 million. Phew!
3. Walt Disney
It’s hard to believe in today’s world where Disney is a money-generating brand unlike any other, but once there was just a struggling film maker called Walt Disney trying to make his way in the world.
In 1922 Disney had started his first film company and had signed a deal with a New York company to distribute his film. However the distributor cheated Disney and without their cash the studio went bankrupt in 1923.
Thankfully we know that’s not the end of the story. Disney went on to have growing success in Hollywood and in 1928 debuted his Mickey Mouse character. His production company produced ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ which was the first animated feature film. The Walt Disney Company is now worth billions of dollars and not only creates animated movies, but also now owns Marvel Studios (responsible for 2012’s ‘Avengers Assemble’) and the Star Wars franchise. Disney must have wished really hard upon a star.
2. Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson was titled the ‘King of pop’ and labelled by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful entertainer of all time. He was responsible for a whole bevy of hits including ‘Thriller’, ‘Billy Jean’ ‘Smooth Criminal’, ‘Man in the Mirror’ and countless others. Jackson had signed a $1 billion recording contract in 1991 and had sold over 700 million records worldwide.
In 2007, however, he was forced to file for bankruptcy because he was unable to keep up payments for his $25 million loan on his home, Neverland Ranch. Jackson had spent extravagantly on the property which included, among other crazy things, a zoo and a helicopter pad.
Since Jackson’s untimely death in 2009 he has earned over $1 billion. He is now number one in the dead celebrities rich list.
1. Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was…well, you know who he was. Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States, lead the country through the civil war and in doing so maintained the union and abolished slavery (leave it to the historians to discuss just how passionately Lincoln cared about freeing slaves.)
Before he got into politics, Lincoln had bought a General Store in 1832. The store amounted lots of debts and when Lincoln’s wife died he owed $1,000 in back payments. As he was unable to pay this off he was taken to court and lost his two assets; his horse and surveying gear. It took him 17 years to fully pay back his creditors.
Who’d have thought that the greatest president of the United States had such a dodgy credit history!
If you’re in financial difficulty and want to know more about bankruptcy then read our article: ‘How do I go bankrupt?’
I suppose celebs get paid more than most people, but regular work isn’t guaranteed.
This article gives us all hope : Never give up. Keep on trying.
Agree totally. Hopeful and inspiring reading. Thanks.
Thank you both for your comments. I’m glad to hear that the stories of these celebs have given you hope!