Top 25 Famous Bankruptcy Filers

September 14, 2011 Betsy Lynch 0 Comments

What do Walt Disney, Donald Trump (on more than one occasion), and Mark Twain all have in common?  That’s RIGHT – they have all declared bankruptcy at some point in their lives.

Can you believe these people have all filed for bankruptcy?

1. Benedict Arnold:  

Arnold faced financial ruin, falling £16,000 in debt, with creditors spreading rumors of his insolvency to the point where he took legal action against them.

2. Kim Bassinger:  

Some family members recommended Basinger buy the small town of Braselton, Georgia in 1989 for US$20 million, to establish as a tourist attraction with movie studios and film festivals, but she met financial difficulties and sold it in 1993. Her financial difficulties were exacerbated when she pulled out of a controversial film, resulting in the studio’s winning a multi-million dollar judgment against her. Basinger filed for bankruptcy and appealed the jury’s decision to a higher court, which sided with her. She and the studio settled for a lesser amount.

3. George Clinton: Funk music creator and lead singer of Parliament, declared bankruptcy in 1985.

4. WaltDisney:  

That’s right! Disney’s career wasn’t always a moneymaking venture. In 1921, he began a company called the Laugh-O-Gram Corporation in Kansas City, Missouri but was forced to file for bankruptcy two years later because his financial backers pulled out. He then became one of the highest paid animators in history.

5. Zsa Zsa Gabor: 

In 1993, Gabor was sued for libel, and ordered to pay more than one million dollars to actress Elke Sommer. The feud between the two blondes apparently began when Sommer said that Gabor had a big behind, and Gabor told the press that Sommer’s career was washed up. The actual libel suit was brought about when Gabor’s husband, von Anhalt né Lichtenberg, claimed that Sommer had said, “All German men are pigs.” Losing the lawsuit forced Gabor into bankruptcy.

6. Marvin Gaye: 

He filed

 for bankruptcy in 1976 after the royalties from his album 

“Here, My Dear” 

were promised to his ex-wife as an alimony substitute.

7. Ulysses S. Grant: 

In 1881, Grant purchased a house in New York City and placed almost all of his financial assets into an investment banking partnership with Ferdinand Ward. In 1884, Ward swindled Grant, bankrupted the company, and fled. Depleted of money, Grant was forced to repay a $150,000 loan to one of his creditors. 

8. MC Hammer: 

Hammer later went $13 million into debt because of dwindling album sales, unpaid loans and a lavish lifestyle.  He filed for bankruptcy in April 1996.

9. Milton Snavely Hershey: 

Milton Snavely Hershey founded Hershey’s Foods Corporation in 1903 but didn’t find success immediately. Hershey dropped out of school after the 4th grade because his family moved around a lot. With little to no education, his first four attempts at a candy business failed and forced him to file for bankruptcy but his fifth resulted in a major corporation that’s doing pretty darn good to this day.

10.  Larry King: 

Larry King’s rise to fame for radio work in the 60’s derailed him financially. He was in debt $352,000, charged with grand larceny and accused of stealing from a business partner. The charges were dropped but he struggled to get back on his feet and ended up claiming bankruptcy in 1978. 

11. Jerry Lee Lewis: 

Lewis’ career has been marked by many tragedies. Two of his sons died accidentally, as did Jaren and Shawn, two of his six wives.  In 1975 the IRS took most of his personal property for backed taxes, and in 1981 he almost died from a perforated stomach.  In 1988 he filed for bankruptcy with three million dollars of debts with no assets.

12. Abraham Lincoln:  

The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, declared bankruptcy in 1833 and spent 17 years paying off money he borrowed from friends to start his business.

13. Meat Loaf: Meat Loaf’s 1977 album Bat Out of Hell still sells around 200,000 copies a year but in 1983 he wasn’t doing so well and had to declare bankruptcy. 

14. Willie Nelson:  In 1990 Willie Nelson was one of the most popular country singers of all time, but due to tax debts totaling over $16 million, he filed for bankruptcy.

15. Wayne Newton: 

The Las Vegas crooner, Wayne Newton, found himself in more than $20 million in debt in 1992 and was forced to file for bankruptcy. 

16. Tom Petty: In 1979, Tom Petty filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with debts of $500k.  He was in the middle of a dispute with MCA Records and filed bankruptcy to negotiate a fresh deal with a new label.

17. Burt Reynolds:  

Despite much success, Reynolds’s finances were bad in the 90s, due in part to an extravagant lifestyle, a messy divorce, and failed investments; consequently, in 1996, Reynolds filed for Ch. 11 bankruptcy. 

18. Lawrence Taylor:  
In an attempt to keep creditors from seizing his house, former football great Lawrence Taylor filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1998 to try to 
avoid foreclosure his $605,000 house in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.  He was a year behind on mortgage payments.  See

19. Donald Trump: Donald Trump found himself $900 million in debt in 1990 and lost a lot of his business ventures but somehow restructured his debt to be back on top running a billion-dollar empire.

20. Mark Twain:  The  pre-eminent American author, lost most of his money investing in a worthless machine called the Paige Compositor, an automatic typesetting machine. He filed for bankruptcy in 1894.  Soon after, he began giving lectures to large audiences, traveled to Europe and spent the next four years lecturing in every major city. He used the proceeds from these lectures to repay all his debts. 

21. Mike Tyson:  

Filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August of 2003.

22. Henry John Heinz:  

Famous condiment manufacturer, started his company in 1869 selling horseradish, pickles, sauerkraut and vinegar. In 1875 the company filed for bankruptcy due to an unexpected bumper harvest which the company could not keep up with and could not meet its payroll obligations. 

23.  Henry Ford: 

A famous automobile manufacturer whose first two automobile manufacturing companies failed. The first company filed for bankruptcy and the second ended because of a disagreement with a business partner. In June 1903, at the age of 40, he created a third company, the Ford Motor Company with a cash investment of $28,000.00. By July of 1903 the bank balance had dwindled to $223.65, but then Ford sold its first car, and as they say the rest is history.

24. George Foreman:  In the eighties, former heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman was on the verge of bankruptcy. In Foreman’s case, fear of financial ruin proved to be a good thing because it drove him to re-enter the boxing ring at age 45 and regain his heavyweight title in 1994. This second chance at success enabled him to pay off millions of dollars and launch a new career as an entrepreneur hawking George Foreman Grills. Millions have been sold.

25.  Thomas Jefferson:  

Our founding father . . . 

Though born into a wealthy slave-owning family, Jefferson had many financial problems, and filed for bankruptcy several times.  He died deeply in debt and his possessions (including the persons he held as slaves) were sold off in public auctions starting in 1827.

Most information located in this article can be found and verified at .

For more information on bankruptcy, please or contact your Kansas City Bankruptcy Lawyer, Betsy Lynch at 816.434.6616.

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