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Celebrity Bankruptcy: 10 Public Figures Who Have Filed

I think we can all agree that filing for bankruptcy is a financial low point. You may feel embarrassed, financially vulnerable, and even like you’ve failed. And while it may feel like you are out of options and alone, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. As it turns out, bankruptcy and credit card debt affect a lot more people than you may think. In fact, a number of celebrities, public figures, and even a few presidents have filed for bankruptcy. And if these successful individuals can survive celebrity bankruptcy, you can too.

Celebrity bankruptcy proves that everyone needs financial literacy.

Celebrity bankruptcy proves that everyone needs financial literacy.

Celebrity Bankruptcy

Money management can be tricky, even if you have a lot of it. Here’s a list of 10 successful people who have declared bankruptcy:

1. Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a businessman, television personality, and our sitting President. No matter your personal opinion, there’s no denying that President Trump is a go-getter. His business ventures have taken him down the path of fame, but Mr. Trump has also filed for bankruptcy for his various businesses six times between 1991 and 2006.

2. 50 Cent. Despite being a successful rapper, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2015 after an elongated personal court dispute. This is just a reminder that even if you’re worth millions, consumer debt can affect just about anyone.

3. Michael Jackson. Even “The King of Pop”  had a tendency to live beyond his means. From his lavish home and theme park Neverland to excessive spending on luxury items, Jackson died owing upwards of $500 million. While he didn’t officially declare, Jackson was on the verge of bankruptcy at the time of his death, and likely would have filed in the coming months. It’s just a reminder that even a monumental career and unimaginable wealth doesn’t prevent poor money management.

4. Walt Disney. Back before Walt Disney was Walt Disney, he was a struggling animator. Walt’s first animation company (with financial backing) went belly-up, leaving Walt unable to pay his debts, staff, or operating expenses. So, Mr. Disney filed for bankruptcy in 1920. But, maybe it was for the best. Just three years later, Walt Disney took out a loan from his family and drew a little creature named Mickey Mouse.

5. Abraham Lincoln. Another president on our list of celebrity bankruptcy – who knew? Our 16th President, Abraham “Honest Abe” Lincoln, may have been truthful, but that doesn’t mean he was great with money. Presidential debt has affected a number of our nation’s leaders, and Lincoln is no exception. Back in 1832, Lincoln bought a village store with his partner, William Berry. To pay his share, President Lincoln took out a loan to cover his half. Unfortunately, Berry died, and Lincoln was saddled with his partner’s debts as well. And, in an odd twist of fate, President Lincoln married a shopaholic. You may be familiar with the infamous Lincoln renovations at the White House, but did you know that it put the President in another mountain of debt?

6. Larry King. Larry King is a prominent television and radio personality with his most notable work being a 25 year tenure at CNN hosting Larry King Live. Back in the 1960’s, King was a low-paid radio host, but spent like he was living large. He even stole from his business partner, landing him in a drought of no money and no work. He declared bankruptcy in 1978, but in a fit of luck was offered a little gig in Washington D.C that turned into a pretty successful 25 year stint.

7. Mike Tyson. Tyson is one of the most famous boxers and heavyweight fighters of all time. In the prime of his career, and after years of financial struggle, Tyson filed for bankruptcy in 2003. His excessive spending (which totaled upwards of $60 million in a year) was a large factor in his bankruptcy. Tyson has since retired from fighting, and much of his financial situation and debt recovery is unknown.

8. Cyndi Lauper. With eleven studio release albums and additional compilation and video albums, Cyndi Lauper is one successful singer. Her career has spanned over three decades, but before she made it big, Lauper filed for bankruptcy. The cause of the singer/songwriter’s bankruptcy was an album for a failed band, “Blue Angel”.

9. Tom Petty. Tom Petty’s bout with bankruptcy is truly fascinating. In a unique turn, the Rock and Roll hall of famer filed for bankruptcy in 1979 in an effort to get out of his record contract. Why? Because the music industry is known for pocketing millions and leaving their successful artists deeply in debt – despite selling millions of records.

10. Henry Ford. Ford revolutionized modern transportation and had a passion for innovation. Like many entrepreneurs, Ford also had a brush with financial hardship along the way. According to USLegal, Henry Ford was so focused on his designs that he failed to publicize his new work, resulting in a lack of public interest (aka sales) and, thus contributed to his bankruptcy. Eventually, Ford started Ford Auto Company, one of the most successful American auto companies to date.

And that’s ten! Yes, it’s interesting to see how even public figures can struggle with their finances. But the takeaway from celebrity bankruptcy? That filing for bankruptcy isn’t a financial death sentence. Recovering from bankruptcy will take some work, but it’s nothing you can’t do.

If you’re struggling to pay off debt, ACCC can help. Schedule a free credit counseling session with us today. 


Madison is a Marketing Communications & Programs Associate at ACCC. She is excited to share her tips on saving money and being financially responsible here on the Talking Cents blog!

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