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- Many celebrities go from being rich and famous to being involved in lawsuits or spending sprees that trigger bankruptcy.
- United States President Ulysses S. Grant was broke after leaving the Oval Office.
- Michael Jackson, MC Hammer, and 50 Cent all went from being top musicians with great wealth to bankruptcy and debt.
- Actors like Nicolas Cage and Kim Basinger have also declared bankruptcy.
The lives of the rich and famous often seem glamorous, but even the biggest celebrities have issues with money.
Despite many inspiring stories of celebrities who came from nothing and worked their way out of financial hardship, the opposite also happens. From musicians to athletes to movie stars, sometimes fame and wealth result in a disastrous spending spree.
Here are 24 examples of rich and famous celebrities who lost all of their money at one point in their careers. Some of them managed to bounce back, while others remain in financial trouble.
Michael Jackson was reportedly at least $400 million in debt when he died unexpectedly in 2009.
Large amounts of spending required Jackson to take out loans, many of which he never paid back. Jackson’s money problems got worse once he was involved in numerous expensive lawsuits and interest on his debt increased. At the time of his death, a forensic accountant estimated that Jackson owed $400 to $500 million.
Nicolas Cage was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars — earning $40 million in 2009 alone — but also one of its biggest spenders.
Cage purchased many homes, automobiles, and rare artifacts. However, in 2015, reports started to emerge about how he blew his $150 million fortune from 1996 to 2011.
The IRS placed tax liens on multiple properties he owned and then had Cage hand over more than $6 million for failing to pay his 2007 tax bill. Cage’s precarious financial situation led him to sell many of his personal belongings, including a treasured comic book.
As of May 2017, Cage is worth a reported $25 million. One of his most recent roles was as Spider-Noir in 2018’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”
Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s nickname is “Money” for never losing a boxing match. Ironically, he owed money to the IRS.
Deadspin reported that Money Mayweather has owed the IRS money for over a decade.
The boxer’s failure to pay taxes resulted in a $22.2 million debt to the IRS, even as he came out of retirement for a high grossing fight. In 2018, there were reports that Mayweather could come out of retirement again to settle his debts.
Mike Tyson earned a reported $400 million over his career but he was knocked down with a $23 million debt in 2003.
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The heavyweight champion declared bankruptcy, returned to jail, and went through rehab before he again reached financial stability.
By 2003, he owed money to the IRS, British tax authorities, lawyers, a personal trainer, a financial manager, and a music producer, among others. Tyson had to pay $9 million in a divorce settlement and was also behind on child support.
Today, Tyson has retired from fighting and appears to be solvent again. In 2018, Tyson started a marijuana company in California called The Ranch Companies. This year he revealed he wants to start a cannabis-themed resort.
Stephen Baldwin filed for bankruptcy in 2009, while owing money on taxes and a couple of mortgages.
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Alec’s younger brother filed for bankruptcy in 2009 while owing money on taxes and a couple of mortgages. Troubles repeated as Baldwin’s house was foreclosed in 2017 after six years of no mortgage payments.
On another occasion, Baldwin was arrested and served five years’ probation for failing to pay taxes for three straight years.
In 2015, 50 Cent was reportedly $32.5 million in debt.
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He broke out as a rapper in the late ’90s, but he makes most of his money from a diverse business empire.
More recently, 2018 reports said 50 Cent was a millionaire because of the 700 bitcoins he was reportedly paid on his 2014 album. 50 Cent later filed court documents that said the reports weren’t true and the rapper had never owned any bitcoins.
It is tough to imagine a president going broke after leaving the White House, but that’s what happened to esteemed Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant.
The 18th president became a partner in financial firm Grant and Ward, but Ferdinand Ward embezzled investors’ money, leaving the firm and Grant bankrupt in 1884.
Grant was receiving a military pension, but it wasn’t enough as the president was also suffering from throat cancer.
To make money, Grant had author Mark Twain publish his memoirs, but he died before he could make money from his life story.
Speaking of Mark Twain, the American author grew up poor after his father died when the novelist-to-be was 11 years old.
- Major J.B. Pond/Wikimedia
Throughout his career, Twain desired to become rich, and even though he married up on the social ladder, his dream never came true.
After the success of Grant’s biography and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” Twain’s publishing house went bankrupt. His financial failings contributed to depression and in 1894, the satirist declared bankruptcy.
With more successful writing and a popular speaking tour, Twain got back to financial security but then lost a $30,000 investment in a protein powder.
Despite his hit “U Can’t Touch This,” MC Hammer filed for bankruptcy.
- MC Hammer/Youtube
MC Hammer had a legitimate hit with “U Can’t Touch This” and the rapper soon had $30 million in the bank. Thanks to his success, Hammer bought a $1 million mansion that he made $30 million worth of adjustments to and staffed 200 people in his home. He also bought a horse stable where he kept 19 racehorses.
Combined with his unrestrained spending and numerous lawsuits, Hammer declared bankruptcy in 1996 while he was reportedly $13 million in debt.
In 2011, he went on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to talk about spending most days in California’s Silicon Valley and being “loosely involved with about eight [technology] companies.”
Dennis Rodman was a famous basketballer player, but in 2012, his lawyers said he could barely afford his living expenses.
Dennis Rodman was known as a great rebounder and teammate of Michael Jordan before becoming an eccentric celebrity. Outside of sports, Rodman was known for a short marriage to Carmen Electra and was eventually an unofficial US ambassador to North Korea.
In 2012, Rodman’s lawyers said he could barely afford living expenses and could not pay child support for his two kids. At the time, he reportedly owed over $800,000 in back child support but in court documents, his lawyers said he was “broke” and “sick.”
Recently, Rodman was accused of stealing a 400-pound amethyst crystal from a yoga studio as well as more than $500 worth of clothing from brands like Spiritual Gangster and Lululemon. He denied the allegation and said the merchandise was given as a gift.
Actress Kim Basinger once purchased a 1,691-acre town and later had to file for bankruptcy.
In 1989, Basinger paid $20 million for the town of Braselton, Georgia. She was expected to create a tourist attraction such as a theme park or movie studio, but she instead declared bankruptcy in 1993 and had to sell the property.
The bankruptcy was a huge news story at the time. Basinger was sued by “Boxing Helena” producer Carl Mazzocone for backing out of an oral contract to star in the film. The Los Angeles Superior Court ordered her to pay damages and lawyer fees.
Basinger eventually settled with Main Line Pictures in 1995, avoiding the initial $8.1 million judgment.
She has continued to act in movies like 2002’s “8 Mile” with Eminem, 2010’s “Charlie St. Cloud” with Zac Efron, and 2017’s “Fifty Shades Darker.”
Marvin Gaye, the soul singer of hits “Let’s Get It On” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” went bankrupt because he owed his ex-wife alimony.
Gaye is known as one of the most famous musicians of all time, but in 1976, he filed for bankruptcy after falling behind on alimony payments to his first wife, Anna Gordy Gaye.
In 1976, a judge ordered Gaye to pay his ex-wife $600,000 from royalties of his upcoming album, “Here, My Dear.” In 1984, he was shot and killed by his father. At the time, the 44-year-old Gaye still owed Anna just under $300,000 in back alimony.
Burt Reynolds was a big movie star in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, but was forced to declare bankruptcy in the ’90s.
“I’ve lost more money than is possible because I just haven’t watched it,” Reynolds told Vanity Fair in 2015.
The movie star spent heavily on real estate, a private jet, 150 horses, and over $100,000 in toupees in the ’80s, according to the Vanity Fair profile. After an expensive marriage to Loni Anderson, Reynolds experienced an expensive divorce.
Due to large costs and dwindling income, Reynolds couldn’t pay back a $3.7 million loan to CBS and declared bankruptcy in 1996 while he was over $10 million in debt.
A year later in 1997, Reynolds earned accolades for his role in the hit film “Boogie Nights.” Reynolds died, still making movies, in September 2018.
Meat Loaf had a successful career in the ’70s, but had to file for bankruptcy in the ’80s due to more than 45 lawsuits.
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Meat Loaf was a huge success in the late ’70s starring in the cult classic “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and releasing his hit album “Bat Out of Hell.”
But following that success, the singer faced financial troubles and was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1983.
“I had 45 lawsuits totaling $80 million thrown at me, it was a game. And the only way to stop them playing their game was to declare a chapter 11 bankruptcy,” he told The Guardian in 2003. “Because every time we’d get one case dismissed, they’d throw another one at me. And everybody thinks I had all this money but I didn’t, because CBS did not pay my royalties until 1997.”
He turned things around in the ’90s with his hit song “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).”
Willie Nelson is known as a country singer and marijuana smoking icon, but he has also gotten into notable money problems.
Nelson was avoiding federal taxes and the IRS came looking for a tax bill of $16.7 million, including interest and penalty.
His lawyer negotiated the bill down to $6 million, but Nelson still couldn’t pay up. In 1990, the IRS raided his home and seized nearly everything Nelson owned – including twenty properties and most of his instruments and music collection.
Nelson recorded “The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories” and fans organized fundraisers for the down-on-his-luck musician to help him settle his debt. With the help of the tapes, Nelson was able to pay off his debt.
Today, Nelson is still recording music and as successful as ever.
Gary Coleman was a childhood star, but his parents and business advisor mismanaged his money.
Gary Coleman was a childhood star, making $70,000 per episode of “Diff’rent Strokes” in the ’80s, but by the time the show ended in 1986, his adopted parents and business advisor mismanaged his earnings.
Coleman had trouble finding other work in Hollywood and eventually won a settlement against his parents and business advisor, but that was not enough to avoid bankruptcy in 1999.
Financial issues have continued to plague Wayne Newton for the last 30 years.
Wayne Newton had a few hits in the ’60s, but he made it big as a Las Vegas lounge singer and was even the highest-earning performer in 1983.
But by 1992, Newton was bankrupt and $20 million in debt.
Even though he made his way out of debt, Newton’s money problems didn’t stop there. The IRS sued him in 2005 for failing to pay $1.8 million on the sale of a house. Newton’s property, the 40-acre Case de Shenandoah estate, was seized in 2010 for reportedly failing to pay off a $3.35 million loan, though eventually it was agreed that the property could be turned into a public attraction.
Most recently, Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah – which had been used for public tours and events – was closed for renovations in 2018 with no current plans to reopen.
Larry King is one of America’s most recognizable faces in media, but the TV host had to file for bankruptcy back in 1978 after legal and financial troubles.
King began his career in broadcast in the 1950s and ’60s as a radio announcer in Miami, Florida. But in 1971, he was charged with grand larceny and accused of stealing $5,000 from his then-business partner.
Although the charges were dropped, that situation took a toll on his career at the time. King fell deep into debt and was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1978.
That same year though, King was offered a national radio talk show in Washington, DC, which later became his career-defining “Larry King Live” on CNN.
Cyndi Lauper had to file for bankruptcy before she made it big.
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Before she was a solo artist and made hits like “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” she was in a group called Blue Angel.
The band’s first and only album was a flop, and to make matters worse, their manager sued them for $80,000. This forced Lauper to file for bankruptcy in 1981.
She recovered by releasing a hit solo album “She’s So Unusual” and went on to become a Grammy- and Tony-award winning artist who inspired countless other performers.
Today, Lauper still releases new music, tours, and performs.
Toni Braxton filed for bankruptcy twice.
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The “Unbreak My Heart” singer opened up about her financial troubles in a 2012 interview with ABC’s “20/20.”
She said that in 1998, she had to file for bankruptcy due to her recording contract paying her poorly – she said she received less than $2,000 in royalties – as well as costly spending habits. Then in 2008, she had to cancel a Las Vegas revue due to ongoing health issues which forced her to again file for bankruptcy.
Braxton has since starred on her own reality TV show, WE TV’s “Braxton Family Values,” and on other made-for-TV movies.
She also announced a 2019 “As Long As I Live” tour in support of her latest album “Sex & Cigarettes.”
Aaron Carter owed $1 million in taxes in 2009, and in 2013 he was forced to file for bankruptcy.
- Alana Yzola/INSIDER
The one-time teen pop star talked to Us Weekly in 2016 about the financially “terrible position” he was in. He even talked about not having any savings.
“When I turned 18, I got hit with all those taxes. I filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy last year; now I’m already over $100,000 in debt,” he said.
The 31-year-old is on tour and released an album in 2018 called “Løvë.”
The “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Teresa Giudice and her husband, Joe, filed for bankruptcy in 2009 — but that was just the beginning of their financial woes.
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After the couple claimed that they were $10 million in debt, creditors alleged that they were hiding assets and charged them with bankruptcy fraud as well as other charges of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud.
In 2016, they settled the case and pursued a legal malpractice lawsuit against their former lawyer.
They’re reportedly still paying back taxes to the IRS and the New Jersey Department of Revenue.
“The Partridge Family” star David Cassidy filed for bankruptcy in 2015, claiming he was $10 million in debt.
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According to People magazine, the ’70s heartthrob filed for bankruptcy in 2015 in his home state of Florida, despite selling over 25 million records in the height of his career.
Cassidy had a history of DUIs and other health issues aside from his financial troubles. By his third DUI, his wife, Sue Shifrin-Cassidy, filed for divorce in 2014. He put his mansion up for auction in an effort to finance his divorce and gave the Associated Press a tour of the house.
Cassidy then passed away in November of 2017.
In 2018, a voice recording revealed that he admitted to lying about having dementia and that his health issues were caused by alcohol addiction.
Isaac Hayes was one of the most influential artists of his time, but financial issues almost ruined his career.
- Michael Putland/Getty Images
The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer had to file for bankruptcy in 1976, claiming he owed $6 million in taxes.
In 1977, he told Ebony magazine that financial mismanagement from his record label coupled with lavish spending and putting “too much trust in people” resulted in bankruptcy.
However, Hayes – who died in 2008 at 65 years old – went on to make more music, own two restaurants, and write a best-selling cookbook.