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Top 10 Bankruptcies Of The 20th Century

Jan 15, 2008
Celebrity bankruptcy has become so common that many now hire financial advisors to keep an eye on their bank accounts and stop them from overindulging on wild extravagances and unworkable business ventures. Nobody, no matter how famous or rich, is immune to the perils of debt. In that way the celebs are just like the rest of us, but they're playing with much higher stakes.

Donald Trump: billionaire entrepreneur

Trump, currently worth approximately $3 billion, has certainly had his fair share of financial disasters. In 1992 the three casinos he then owned - the Taj Mahal, Castle and Plaza - went bankrupt, burdened by more than $1 billion in debt following the 1990-91 recession. But he climbed back from the brink of personal bankruptcy and chronicled his return to billionaire status in the 1997 book 'Trump: The Art of the Comeback.' Trump's casino empire went bankrupt again in 2004.

Meat Loaf: rock star

Meat Loaf spawned some of the largest selling albums of all time, but things turned nasty for him when, in 1981, he changed managers after discovering that his were stealing his money. They had all of Meat Loaf's assets frozen and sued him for breach of contract. They also spread rumours that he was violent and had threatened people with guns, and a battle-worn Meat Loaf ended up declaring bankruptcy. In 1986, Meat Loaf found a new writer, John Parr, and started recording a new album. Unfortunately, the producer put a dance beat underneath every song, which proved to be a huge mistake, and Meat Loaf ended up going bankrupt for a second time.

Anna Nicole Smith: Model/Actress and 1993 Playboy magazine 'Playmate of the Year'

Tragic Anna Nicole Smith entered the limelight in 1994 when, at the age of 26, she married 89-year-old oil business executive and billionaire J Howard Marshall. In 1996, Smith filed for bankruptcy in California as a result of a $850,000 judgment against her for sexual harassment of an employee. The former model died from a drug overdose in February 2007, five months after the death of her son Daniel, aged 20, who had also overdosed on drugs.

M.C. Hammer rock star

M.C. Hammer of parachute pants and 'Hammertime' fame filed for personal bankruptcy in April 1996 as a result of dwindling album sales and a lavish lifestyle. He was $13 million in debt. After this rapid fall from grace, MC Hammer spent most of the late 1990s as a punch line in the music business. Nelly, in his year 2000 breakthrough hit 'Country Grammar', announced his intention to 'blow 30 mill like I'm Hammer'

George Best: Manchester United Footballer

Manchester United football legend George Best will always be remembered for his dazzling skill on the pitch, but it was the accompanying champagne and playboy lifestyle which ultimately led him to an early grave. Best's partying and decadence degenerated tragically into alcoholism, bankruptcy, a prison sentence and, eventually, a liver transplant. Following his death in November 2005 the News of the World published a picture of Best at his own request, showing him in his hospital bed, along with what was reported to be his final message: 'Don't die like me'.

Walt Disney: Oscar - winning film producer, animation & theme park pioneer

Disney did not lose his riches once he had found them, but it was a major struggle to get there in the first place. As a young entrepreneur Walt Disney formed his first animation company in Kansas City in 1921 and made a deal with a distribution company in New York. Flushed with success, Disney began to experiment with new storytelling techniques, but his costs went up and then the distributor went bankrupt. He was also forced to declare bankruptcy in 1923 and at one point could not pay his rent and was surviving on dog food.

Gary Glitter: Glam Rock star

Gary Glitter, the King of Glam Rock, has had an unusual life. After excessive drinking and drug taking in his earlier musical career, he was declared bankrupt in1980. However, Glitter, aka Paul Francis Gadd, says he was only declared bankrupt because 'somebody didn't fill in the right forms.' Just as he had begun to turn his life around, Glitter was confronted with allegations of paedophilia, and in 1999 he was convicted for downloading 4,000 child pornography pictures and was listed as a sex offender. Glitter's reputation was further tarnished when he was permanently evicted from Cambodia in 2002 for suspected child sexual abuse offences.

Oskar Schindler: activist who saved over 1000 Jews from the Nazis

In the 1930s, a young Oskar Schindler changed jobs several times. He also tried various business ventures, but soon went bankrupt because of the Great Depression.

By the end of the war, Schindler had spent his entire fortune on bribes and black-market supplies for his Jewish workers. Virtually destitute, Schindler did not prosper in post-war Germany, and eventually he emigrated to Argentina in 1948, where he went bankrupt again. Returning to Germany in 1958, Schindler had a series of unsuccessful business ventures. He then settled down in West Germany and tried again - with help from a Jewish organisation - to establish a cement factory. This, too, went bankrupt in 1961.

TLC: R&B/Hip-Hop/Pop group

In 1994, not long before the release of the trio's second album 'CrazySexyCool' (which was to sell over 11 million copies) band member Lisa Lopes was arrested on arson charges. In an alcohol-fuelled fit of rage, Lopes vented all the frustrations from her often-stormy relationship with Andre Rison, burning his Atlanta mansion to the ground and vandalizing several of his cars. In 1995, TLC filed for bankruptcy, claiming debts of over 3.5 million dollars, in part stemming from Lopes' insurance payments over the arson incident.

Kim Basinger: Oscar - winning actress

Extravagant Basinger found herself into trouble when she bought the town of Braselton, Georgia for $20 million. It was around the same time that she dropped out of the movie 'Boxing Helena' after expressing concern over nude scenes. Main Line Pictures sued the star of Batman and 9 1/2 Weeks for breach of contract, and the ensuing court case was of Hollywood proportions. The producers' lawyers even tried to stop Basinger having children - as this would diminish the sum they might reclaim. Basinger filed for personal bankruptcy in 1993 and was forced to sell the town of Braselton.
About the Author
Iain Mackintosh is the managing director of Simply-Docs. The firm provides over 1100 legal documents and templates covering all aspects of business from the new holiday entitlement laws to bankruptcy.
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