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The Fall of the Celebrity Millionaire

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Many celebrities make a lot of money on the road to success but many find themselves having to declare bankruptcy when the money runs out. Check out this infographic, you’ll learn a little more about the celebrities that have become so well known, only to lose it all.

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The Fall of the Celebrity Millionaire

Many celebrities earn a great deal of money over the course of their careers, bus as they amass more wealth, they can also develop a habit of spending a great deal. This routine can progress to the point of absurdity, ultimately resulting in a declaration of bankruptcy.

Walt Disney

  • As a struggling filmmaker, Walt Disney created a business with a partner called Laugh-O-Grams in Kansas City in 1922.
  • The business succeeded locally.
  • Shortly thereafter, Disney sought a distribution for his work.
  • The New York company eventually cheated his studio out of getting paid.
  • By 1923, the studio closed and Disney declared bankruptcy.
  • Amidst the chaos, he packed up and headed to Hollywood.
  • In 1928, Disney created his pride and joy – Mickey Mouse.
  • Walt Disney’s intellectual property is worth about $68 billion today.

Anna Nicole Smith

  • The former Playmate married the oil tycoon, J. Howard Marshall II, in 1994.
  • He died in 1995, leaving nothing of the $1.6 billion to his name to Smith and everything to his son.
  • During his lifetime, he spent $8 million on gifts for Anna Nicole.
  • In a sexual harassment lawsuit in 1996, she was sued for $850,000, though she didn’t have the means to pay for it.
  • She moved to Los Angeles and filed bankruptcy, stating that she was promised a large share of the estate.
  • A bankruptcy judge awarded her $475 million from Marshall’s estate, though that would later be reduced to $89 million.
  • The case was later thrown out, despite Smith’s best efforts.
  • The young Marshall died in 2006, and a year later, Anna Nicole died of a drug overdose.
  • 4 years after her death, the court finally ruled that her estate would receive nothing from the case.

Gary Coleman

  • He was once the highest paid actor in television when he was the star of the show “Diff’rent Strokes.”
  • At one point in his career, he made $70,000 an episode.
  • In the 1980s, he reportedly had a $7 million fortune.
  • After receiving numerous treatments for congenital kidney disease and numerous legal troubles with his adoptive parents, he filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1999.
  • He was $72,000 in debt and struggling with his health.
  • Coleman died in 2010.

Willie Nelson

  • Nelson enjoyed a great deal of success during the ‘60s and ‘70s.
  • In the ‘80s, he was slapped with a $16.7 million fine from the IRS.
  • By 1990, his assets were seized, including his Texas ranch and he was forced to put out an album to try and recover.
  • He gave a great deal of the money he earned from the album The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories? to the IRS.
  • By 1993, he had paid off what he owed.

Michael Jackson

  • In the U.S. alone, Jackson sold 61 million albums.
  • His real assets were the music rights he owned.
  • In 1985 he bought ATV Music for $47.5 million, effectively giving him control over 259 songs written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
  • Three years later, in 1988, he purchased the Neverland Ranch for $14.6 million.
  • During the 90s, he merged ATV Music with Sony’s Music Library and sold the publishing rights for $95 million.
  • He used his remaining property as collateral for a $200 million loan from Bank of America.
  • At the peak of his spending, Jackson was going through $20 to $30 million a year.
  • The tour called “This Is It” was set to raise $400 million over the course of three and a half years to alleviate some of Michael’s debt.
  • Due to his untimely death, he left behind $500 million in debt, though his assets are believed to be valued at $1 billion.


Celebrities are known for earning exorbitant amounts of money but that doesn’t mean that debt can’t catch up to them the same way it can for anyone else. It’s always important to manage your finances as best you can, though it’s similarly vital to weigh your options and consult resources that can help if you ever get in over your head.

Provided exclusively by Total Bankruptcy.

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