Celebrity Bankruptcy Filing Throughout History
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Famous Bankruptcy Filers Throughout History

Anyone from any walk of life can experience trouble with finances including celebrities, athletes, politicians, business leaders and other prominent public figures. The news is filled with reports of famous people dealing with financial problems stemming from divorce, medical conditions, mortgage foreclosure, credit card problems and lawsuits. In some cases, famous people are taken advantage of by advisors and acquaintances that push them to spend their money on luxurious items they may not be able to afford to maintain.

It is clear that financial crisis doesn't discriminate among people in any income bracket or line of work and can affect any of us at any time in our lives. Take a look at some recent news reports about famous people who have struggled or are currently struggling to manage their financial situation. Some of them find that filing bankruptcy is an excellent way to turn around their money problems and get a fresh start.

Celebrity Bankruptcies

Marion "Suge" Knight is said to be down to his last $11. In May 1996, Knight filed for bankruptcy after receiving a $100 million judgment for a lawsuit brought by a woman claiming to be a key founder of Death Row records. Knight is the CEO of the Death Row record label and is also involved in nine other companies as listed on his bankruptcy filing. His gated estate in Malibu is currently listed for sale, subject to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court's approval. He also has $12 million in tax liens and other legal judgments against him.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, radio talk show host Larry King has interviewed over 30,000 people. Currently, Larry broadcasts his radio show on television hosted by CNN for one hour a night. He began his career in 1957 and became mildly popular in the mid sixties but his life got a little crazy. He spent outrageous amounts of money and became $352,000 in debt. In the same year he became extremely popular, 1978, he also declared bankruptcy. Since then, his spending has fallen in line with his income. Larry King now enjoys his fame, family and continues to interview people from all walks of life.

Before Cyndi Lauper released the hit "She's So Unusual" in 1983, she struggled with her singing and finances. In 1977 she strained her vocal chords and almost quit singing for good. She filed for bankruptcy in 1980, after splitting with the band Blue Angel. Fortunately for her fans, she kept working hard on her music and released the hit "Girls Just Want To Have Fun". Cyndi's financial struggles that led her to declare bankruptcy did not preclude her from continuing to pursue her dreams and achieve a successful Grammy award winning music career. In fact, she will be touring this month on her True Colors Tour.

The recently deceased Anna Nicole Smith is still in the spotlight for many reasons. Some may argue she brought her problems on herself, others may say she was a victim of circumstances. In either case, she had challenges in her life, some she overcame and some she did not. One of her challenges resulted in a need for her to file for bankruptcy in California. After an $850,000 judgment was made against her for sexual harassment of one of her employees, she submitted a petition for bankruptcy in 1996. Her bankruptcy case actually became complicated as it was linked to the Marshall estate. Her former husband was said to have promised her half his $1.6 billion estate.

Jerry Lee Lewis got famous for giving Americans their first look at "rock and roll" when he performed on the Steve Allen Show in 1957. His hit "Whole Lot of Shakin" filled the number one spot in all the music charts including Country and Western, Pop and R&B. Lewis chose to marry a 13 year old and suffered rejection for six years from fans. Eventually he made his way back onto the charts. The IRS took his personal property to pay back taxes. He also had a perforated stomach ailment that he nearly died from. Lewis filed for bankruptcy in 1988 with zero assets and $3 million in debt.

Actor Corey Haim filed for bankruptcy in 1997 but made his way back to the big screen in 2000. He had a large part in the vampire movie, The Lost Boys from 1987. He was also ranked 8th on VH1's Greatest Teen Starts show in 2006.

Country music queen Tammy Wynette was always high on the country charts in the late 1960's and 1970's. In the 1980's her popularity sank as she encountered medical problems. In 1988 she filed for bankruptcy after two Florida shopping center investments went bad. Even after medical problems and financial failures, she was able to emerge from bankruptcy in a grand way. In 1991, she returned to fame with a hit "Justified and Ancient" recorded with KLF. Country music audiences quickly labeled her "The First Lady of Country Music".

Gary Coleman, the child star on Diff'rent Strokes famous for his line "wat'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" ended up with financial problems after the show ended. Coleman filed for bankruptcy in 1999 after his parents and manager misappropriated his 8.3 million trust funds leaving him only $220,000 to his name.

Before Britney Spears became a superstar, her mother Lynne Spears filed for bankruptcy in 1998 with husband James. Superstars, their families and close friends encounter financial problems just like anyone else. Many times bankruptcy is a solution to those financial problems.

Sopranos actress Lorraine Bracco filed for bankruptcy in 1999 after an eight-year custody battle with her ex-husband, actor Harvey Keitel. Lorraine is now very close to paying off all her debts and will finally get to enjoy most of her earnings from the next season of the Sopranos.

Athlete Bankruptcy Filings

Marion Jones won five medals at the Olympics in 2000 and signed multimillion-dollar endorsement deals as a result of her success. But after numerous allegations of steroid use against her, she has spent a significant amount of money on legal representation to fight the allegations. She also missed major international meets after the World Anti-Doping Agency, the United States Anti-Doping Agency and other agencies accused her of using illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Jones blames the attorney fees and her own personal purchases she made to maintain "the lifestyle" which forced her into debt. She became a millionaire from her success as a track and field athlete. Jones felt pressured to stay eligible to compete so she could continue to make the income she needed. In order to do so, Jones fought and continues to fight every claim made against her by these agencies. Now that Jones is deep in debt, she's had to sell some properties and her $2.5 million mansion that went through a mortgage foreclosure last year.

The list of accomplishments for former baseball pitcher Gaylord Perry is numerous. He played on eight different teams during his 35-year career. He led the National League in innings pitched (1968), led National League in shutouts (1970), won the Cy Young Award (1971, 1974) and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (1991). When Perry retired from baseball in 1983, he focused his energy on farming as his parents had done before him. He grew corn, peanuts, soybeans, and tobacco in North Carolina. Perry was one of many farmers who came into financial trouble in the eighties and in 1986 he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. Perry took his financial setback in stride and simply said, "It's a farm situation.

In 1989, a New York investor named Eli Jacobs bought the Baltimore Orioles along with two other partners. They pushed a bill through the state legislature to get funding for a new ballpark, which opened in 1992. Even though the stadium seemed to be a success with many sellouts, Jacobs experienced financial difficulties with the investment. In 1993 just one year after the park opened, Jacobs filed for bankruptcy. The franchise was auctioned off. The good new is that Cal Ripkin's pursuit of the record for consecutive games played sparked interest nationally soon after the ownership transition. Today, the Orioles and the ballpark are still considered very valuable.

The American League left-handed relief pitcher Steve Howe, who played mostly for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees, actually had tragic problems. His career was plagued by drug abuse and addiction. He and his wife filed for bankruptcy in 1984 and later signed on to play again with the Minnesota Twins and minor league teams after that.

Olympic Gold Medal ice skater Dorothy Hamill, who invented the Hamill camel, was not immune to financial strife. She once described "money as evil" when she explained how she had to learn difficult lessons about fame. Even with her great success on and off the ice, she came into difficult times and made a choice to file for bankruptcy in 1996. Nonetheless, she was inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2000.

Former New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who forced many opposing team coaches to retool their entire offensive schemes, filed for bankruptcy in 1998. After retiring from the NFL, Taylor got into trouble for using drugs, filing a false tax return and failing to pay child support. In 1999, just one year after filing for bankruptcy he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Predicted nominee for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, Tony Gwynn, filed for bankruptcy early in his career when his agent "ripped him off". The incident didn't keep the Padres outfielder from hitting .394 in 1994.

NCAA and WNBA superstar Sheryl Swoopes, who fans commonly refer to as the "female Michael Jordan", filed a bankruptcy in June 2004. Sheryl's medals, trophies and uniforms went to auction in July 2006 as part of her Chapter 7 liquidation.

Political Bankruptcy Petitions

Former Texas Governor John Connally, who was wounded in the President Kennedy assassination, was not immune to financial problems. He was also the United States Secretary of the Treasury in 1971 and ran for President in the 1980 primaries. After multiple business losses in Houston, Connally filed for bankruptcy in 1986.

Francis Donald Nixon, brother of the 37th US President Richard Milhous Nixon, filed for personal bankruptcy in 1961. Just a few years earlier in January 1957, Howard Hughes loaned Nixon $205,000 to save his drive-in restaurant in California which served "Nixonburgers". The restaurant went bankrupt only a few months after Nixon received the loan from Hughes.

King Philip II of Spain, 1556-1598, had to declare bankruptcy four times. Some historians fault his style of micro-management as the cause for many of Spain's problems during his reign. Others say Philip II never had adequate control over his kingdom, including the finances, and did the best he could with the resources he had.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, declared bankruptcy in 1833 when his grocery business failed. Also interesting is the fact that Lincoln himself became a lawyer and filed bankruptcy petitions for others before he entered politics.

Business Leader Bankruptcy Cases

Wally Amos, creator of Famous Amos cookies is back in business after losing his cookie business in the late 1980's. Currently, Amos owns the Chip & Cookie shop in Kailua, Hawaii. He is also the co-founder of Uncle Wally's Muffin Company based in Shirley, New York. The muffins are sold in Costco, Wal-Mart and thousands of other stores across the nation.

Oskar Schindler, famous for being the activist who saved over 1000 Jews from the Nazis was also a successful businessman. However, he was not immune to economic forces. The first time he filed bankruptcy was in the 30's before the war when economic crisis forced his firm into financial problems. The second time he filed bankruptcy was in 1957 when he unsuccessfully try to run a farm in Argentina. Steven Spielberg felt so compelled by his story that he directed the highly acclaimed movie Schindler's List.

Milton Snavely Hershey, who was raised in a strict Mennonite faith, was known as a very intelligent man with unrealistic ideas. Before his success, he failed in many "get rich schemes" which caused him to declare bankruptcy. He did eventually launch the very successful Hershey Chocolate Company and the town Hershey, Pennsylvania.

P.T. Barnum was driven into bankruptcy before he opened the circus known as "The Greatest Show on Earth". Barnum was quoted as saying "Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant." His story is a perfect example of how bankruptcy can open up opportunities for success.

Walt Disney began making his own cartoons in the 1920's. When his main client went into bankruptcy, Disney could not pay his staff or his rent. He had no choice but to declare a personal bankruptcy. This rocky start did not deter Walt Disney from producing Oscar winning films and pioneering theme parks. Rather, filing bankruptcy provided Walt Disney the ideal opportunity he needed to make a fresh start and prove himself as a great American success story.

Other Notable Personal Bankruptcy Filers

Tracy Anderson, the Pilates trainer to stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, and Chris Martin is currently being investigated by the consumer protection division of the Indiana attorney general's office for allegedly closing her business without refunding customers' prepayments. In 2005, she received a judgment for $450,000 for failing to pay landlords. A $100,000 judgment is still pending in a lawsuit brought against Anderson by a former student of hers.

Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee has been portrayed in almost as many comics as he has created. He helped create the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk and even the X-Men. In 1998, Lee created the production and marketing studio, Stan Lee Media with partner Peter Paul. Lee was forced to file for bankruptcy in February 2001 after Paul and corporate officer Stephan Gordon were found engaging in illegal stock manipulation. His superhero creations unfortunately did not give him his own superpowers with which to avoid bankruptcy. Fortunately though, Lee was not found guilty himself in connection with the stock scheme. Since then Lee has worked to create superhero programs featuring Ringo Starr, Hugh Hefner and Playboy playmates.

Even one of the most famous painters in European art history fell on difficult times. Rembrandt received numerous commissions and fees from students; however the amount of money he received was not enough to cover his debts. He had to auction his home and his collection of his works. Fortunately, during the bankruptcy case, his son's inheritance was kept in tact. After his bankruptcy, Rembrandt continue to paint and teach until he died.

Richard Buckminster Fuller was known as an architect, author, inventor and visionary, is best known for his design of the geodesic dome. He developed the Stockade Building system, but the company behind the design failed. He declared bankruptcy at the age of 32 in 1927 and lived in low-income housing in Chicago. Still, he managed to find work at a college where he began designing the geodesic dome, which he successfully built in 1949.

John James Audubon, famous for his bird prints, declared bankruptcy at the age of 34. He survived by drawing charcoal portraits on commission. Eventually, in 1826 he begins to his project "The Birds of America", a collection of elaborate bird drawings and species documentations. His first daughter, Lucy, went on to found the first Audubon Society in 1886.

Even a lottery winner can go bankrupt. Take for example, Bud Post a.k.a. William J Post III, who won $16.2 million in the Pennsylvania state lottery in 1988. Within one year of winning the lottery, he was actually $1 million in debt and living on food stamps. He filed for bankruptcy in 1996 after a girlfriend successfully sued him for 1/3 of the winnings and his family convinced him to invest in businesses, which eventually failed.

John Wayne Bobbitt, penectomy survivor and porn star with a police record of his own, declared bankruptcy shortly after his wife did the deed that is joked about by men and women worldwide. Fortunately for Bobbitt, the courts do not take into consideration a petitioner's personal history when reviewing a Chapter 7 a href="http://www.totalbankruptcy.com/chapter-13/overview.aspx" title="chapter 13 bankruptcy information">or a Chapter 13 case.

When he was in his 50s, Samuel L. Clemens ("Mark Twain") produced many classic American books and also became a venture capitalist. Unfortunately, the companies he invested in lost money and forced him into bankruptcy. Even as the author of the masterpiece The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain was not immune to making imperfect financial choices that ultimately led him into declaring a personal bankruptcy.

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