Biggest Personal Bankruptcies

From the Top to the Bottom

Biggest Personal Bankruptcies
August 31, 2015

Rapper 50 Cent is currently going through the unpleasant experience of personal bankruptcy. That’s right, the man named after money, the man who sang, “Have a baby by me baby be a millionaire,” is now in bankruptcy court. Like many before him in the entertainment industry, overspending and lifestyle issues put 50 Cent (real name: Curtis Jackson) too far in debt. The last straw was a $7-million judgment against 50 Cent for posting a sex tape on the Internet without the subject's permission.

According to court documents, "Fiddy" has total assets of $24.8 million and $32.5 million in liabilities, for a $7.7 million dollar shortfall. While being more than $7 million in the hole sounds bad, it is nowhere near the largest deficit accrued.

One of the greatest discharges of debt ever took place in Ireland recently. Seán Quinn, the Irish tycoon and owner of the Quinn group, at one point had a net worth of $6 billion and was 164th in Forbes' world ranking of billionaires. Quinn used risky contracts to invest in real estate at just the wrong time‚ immediately before the global financial crisis in 2008. He declared bankruptcy in 2011, and in early 2015, he was finally released from approximately 2 billion Euros ($2.2 billion) in debt.

Australian businessman Alan Bond, who died recently, was also one of the top holders of debt at the time of insolvency. In 1992, Bond filed bankruptcy, claiming debts of 1.8 billion in Australian dollars (around $1.3 billion at current exchange rates). Bond later served prison time for siphoning off controlling interests in one of his companies to shore up the resources of his Bond Corporation.

For some of the largest American bankruptcies, we look to Texas. As you might expect, a few Texans are noted as having some of the highest personal debts — since they do everything bigger in Texas.

The Hunt brothers, Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt, inherited significant oil money from their father H. L. Hunt, but were best known for their attempts to corner the silver market in 1979 and 1980. In January 1980, silver peaked at $49.45 an ounce and the Hunts had $9.6 billion worth of silver bullion and futures contracts. By the last week in March, silver had dropped below $11 per ounce and the Hunts were stuck with margin calls and over $1.75 billion in silver-related obligations to deal with.

Do not feel too sorry for the Hunts, though — their oil holdings were protected in a trust and W.H. Hunt is once again near billionaire status thanks to his oil holdings in the Bakken shale in North Dakota.

Clint Murchison, Jr. was a Texas businessman with a family background in oil and success in a diverse set of businesses — and a founder of one of the most iconic sports franchises in history, the Dallas Cowboys. Murchison was taken down by energy and real estate deals gone bad, and he declared insolvency in 1985 with approximately $500 million in liabilities.

For a different type of Texan, consider Willie Nelson, who declared bankruptcy in 1990 with $16.7 million in unpaid back taxes as a driving force. At least he released a 1992 album titled "The IRS Tapes: Who'll Buy My Memories" as part of his payback efforts.

There are many cases in professional sports, but one of the saddest may be Lenny Dykstra, the spunky New York Met and Philadelphia Phillie who set out to be a financial guru after baseball, but ended up declaring bankruptcy in 2009 with $50 million in liabilities and only $50,000 in assets. He followed that up by serving time after pleading no-contest to charges of grand theft auto and filing a false financial statement.

Although this mostly tragic list should be making you take a long hard look at your spending habits (we hope), the best lesson might be from Willie Nelson (who is currently worth $25 million). The country crooner faced his money woes head on and turned things around. So keep your head up, Mr. Jackson, and keep on working. Maybe you can get a job in a “Candy Shop.”


50 Cent photo ©iStock.com/EdStock | Willie Nelson photo by joshbg2k (http://www.flickr.com/photos/joshbg2k/7252760010/) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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trish | 08.31.15 @ 14:49
Lenny Dykstra was one of my favorite Phillies players. My heart hurt when I read the news about his jail time. Sad how someone that seemed to have it all, lose everything including his morals.
Steffanie | 08.31.15 @ 14:56
Sad to see these people can't control their finances.
Crystal | 08.31.15 @ 14:57
I think they need to be smart and hire advisers and then follow their advice.
Beverly | 08.31.15 @ 14:59
Sad to see people who make/have so much money and yet don't know how to manage it and spend it on things they don't really need.
Britt | 08.31.15 @ 15:01
It's almost made me ponder how people who make so much money, can be so irresponsible with it and end up filing bankruptcy.
Elaine | 08.31.15 @ 15:01
It just goes to show you that having money doesn't make you money wise. Sad that so many have had to bankrupt.
Erin | 08.31.15 @ 15:03
It seems like a lot of people who have lots of money think it's never going to run out so they don't handle it properly. Even if you're rich, you still need to live within your means.
Daniel Dohlstrom | 08.31.15 @ 15:03
Why does it seem those with the means to do so much, that can easily afford the best of the best money management just loose it all
Christina | 08.31.15 @ 15:05
Some people, famous or not, just have trouble living within their means. Managing money is a skill, and worth paying someone to do for you if it is not your strong suit!
Alec | 08.31.15 @ 15:06
This is what makes me scared to invest in anything. If you invest at the wrong time, you could lose everything. However, as long as you do your research and talk to a financial adviser about it, you could probably find something with low risk, high payout to invest in. I'm happy to hear that at least one of these men was able to turn his finances around though!
Angie | 08.31.15 @ 15:07
The lure of big money involves more risk than I would ever want to take. That being said, I won't ever pull in the amount of money they did, but I won't lose it in such a big way, either.
Sarah | 08.31.15 @ 15:08
While it is sad, it is totally preventable. They had the means to make it last but did not choose wisely. They lived, and hopefully they learned.
Rychana Vingia | 08.31.15 @ 15:19
I think when people get a lot of money all of the sudden they don't know how to manage it. Then they have to file bankruptcy.
Wanda Langley | 08.31.15 @ 15:20
I would think that these people would stop and think about how their life was before having all of this money and stick at least half of it back for when they were older.
Rindy | 08.31.15 @ 15:23
It seems that a person making that kind of money would be able to have a responsible person to manage it for them. Or maybe that is the problem.
Nancy | 08.31.15 @ 15:25
I find it difficult to understand how people with so much can be so irresponsible with it.
Sara | 08.31.15 @ 15:29
You know you would think people with money wouldnt go bankrupt. Kind of sad to see.
Jackie | 08.31.15 @ 15:30
It seems there are more stories every month of people losing fortunes through bad investments leading to bankruptcy. Sad to say some of them will go through the same scenario a second time.
Jackie | 08.31.15 @ 15:31
It seems there are more stories every month of people losing fortunes to bad investments leading to bankruptcy. It's sad to say some of them don't learn by their mistake and will go through the same scenario a second time.
Sara | 08.31.15 @ 15:33
How hard is it to keep up with finances when you have that much money. My guess is buy buy buy but not think.
Bobbie | 08.31.15 @ 15:43
Not at all surprised. Who can they trust to fairly deal with their finances, and when that much money involved, I'm sure it seems like they will never run out.
Apryl | 08.31.15 @ 15:51
Lots of money doesn't always come with lots of brains...
Debbie | 08.31.15 @ 16:00
So sad that they had to file bankruptcy but did it really hurt them or teach them anything about their finances and how blessed they were to have such income? That's the real question......
Irene | 08.31.15 @ 16:59
It's ridiculous to me how someone with so much could waste it all
Kamie | 08.31.15 @ 17:52
I was at Carl's Corner the day. Willie's assistant sent a mass email to all the employees letting them know the place was being shut down.
Chelsey | 08.31.15 @ 18:11
I always think it is so unfortunate when someone who has been so successful has to file bankruptcy. Either they need a better financial advisor or just one period.
Carla Truett | 08.31.15 @ 18:14
This just goes to show you that even wealthy people can hit bottom too.
Crystal | 08.31.15 @ 18:20
Budget and live within your means! Hire someone to do it for you before it becomes an issue!
Crystal | 08.31.15 @ 18:22
Definitely live WAY within your means. :)
Andrea | 08.31.15 @ 19:04
I wish I could pay someone to manage my money, but first, I need to make enough money to manage.
Christina | 08.31.15 @ 19:10
Anyone with that much money needs an advisor.
Andrea | 08.31.15 @ 19:13
To have that much money and continue to make that much money, I don't understand how they fall into that.
Victor | 08.31.15 @ 19:23
To think that I owe a couple of dollars and I'm going crazy while tese people owe that much and live the life like nothing happened.
Donnie | 08.31.15 @ 19:55
How would one not know that they owe millions of dollar's?
Heather | 08.31.15 @ 20:12
It's sad that so many people come into wealth and just blow it.
Missy | 08.31.15 @ 20:17
I am always amazed by the celebrities who spend as if the money will never run out. The other point of the article just speaks to doing your research before investing huge sums of money into any one part of the market. It is important to do your homework and diversify your financial portfolio.
Casey | 08.31.15 @ 20:59
It's sad to see someone go from the top to rock bottom with just making bad choices.
Ron | 08.31.15 @ 21:36
Paul Krugman pushes bad theory and should quietly do data analysis.
Meredith L | 09.02.15 @ 13:16
I remember when my father once said - he wanted to die with $1 million in debt because he could then consider himself a millionaire. But he never declared bankruptcy. Celebrities making millions and filing bankruptcy is not tragic, it's pathetic.
Katie Greene | 09.02.15 @ 20:12
I can't imagine how someone could blow through a fortune like that. Sad to see, especially from the point of view of an average American who has a hard time spending $10 without worry if I will need it for a bill or something important later.
Gunther | 09.03.15 @ 18:01
It's rather scary that people who make multi-million dollars can find themselves declaring bankruptcy.
Jill | 09.03.15 @ 18:23
I have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that people who make so much money, can end up having to file bankruptcy!
Steven | 09.03.15 @ 18:33
Sad that people with that much money cannot stay out of debt.
Kyle | 09.03.15 @ 19:00
It's a little off-putting that so many multi-millionaires file for bankruptcy.
Kathryn | 09.03.15 @ 20:06
Really wish things could be different.
Jo Ann | 09.04.15 @ 00:03
When people who have nothing rise to great wealth it is a shock and there is always someone out to scam them out of their money. Risky investments, crazy real estate schemes, and just plain old mooches who would suck an inexperienced wealthy person dry. Sad. But for those born into wealth there is no excuse. They knew better.
George Middleton | 09.04.15 @ 02:09
If they could go to living from payday to payday before, they might understand what money needs to go to.
Casey | 09.04.15 @ 02:54
I wish that more people with the types of finances that these musicians had would learn to manage them better.
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