Fame Does Not Guarantee Fortune: 14 Celebs Who Failed To Keep Their Money Straight

December 28, 2012  |  
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Many celebrities have filed for bankruptcy over the years, proving that even with fame, fortune is not a guarantee – a sentiment that these fifteen celebrities can certainly attest to. Their distressing financial circumstances have converted into bankruptcies, illustrating the importance of good money management at any tax bracket.

Mike Tyson

At his richest, Mike Tyson was worth between $300 and $400 million – an almost unfathomable amount of money to blow. Still, the former heavyweight champ managed to squander his riches on expensive un-necessities  mansions, cars, jewelry, parties, clothing, motorcycles and Bengal tigers. According to his 2003 bankruptcy filing, Tyson owed incredibly large sums of money to a number of creditors; including the IRS, Georgia treasury, and even the British tax authorities. He now lives a comfortable life: not a very wealthy one, but a happy one, he says, with his wife and family.

Gary Coleman

Before passing away in 2010, Gary Coleman had accumulated a mountain of financial debt– a tragedy, considering the young star was once the highest paid actors on television. His legendary role as Arnold (and monumental catchphrase) on the hit TV show Diff’rent Strokes would catapult Coleman to unbelievable fame and fortune: estimated at around $7 million. But in 1999, Coleman filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy due to ongoing court battles with his adoptive parents and mounting medical expenses.

Toni Braxton

Toni Braxton has been very candid about her financial woes on her hit TV show Braxton Family Values, and even expounded upon them in her VH1 Behind The Music special. It seems that despite selling over 15 million albums, the “Unbreak My Heart” singer took home less money than expected, thanks to a “slave contract” that stipulated that she be responsible for her own business expenses. Unaware of the consequences of such an obligation, Toni admits to spending money – though not necessarily frivolously (and more on her sisters and mother than anything else). By 1998, the star filed for bankruptcy: a move many people believed to be a ploy to sever that “slave contract” with LaFace Records.

Regardless, the contract was ended and Toni re-signed to another label. She achieved moderate success with her subsequent albums but never regained the fame that she had lost prior to 1998. In 2010, Toni’s worsening health forced her to cancel a series of high paying Las Vegas shows and file for bankruptcy a second time. Sadly, since then Toni’s struggles have not ended: she was just accused of bankruptcy fraud this past October.

Suge Knight

Despite heading Death Row Records, the label responsible for some of the biggest West Coast rappers of the 90’s, Marion “Suge” Knight filed for bankruptcy in 2006, claiming debt of $137.4 million and assets of $4.4 million. The reason for such dire financials? – Undoubtedly the $100 million judgment ruled against him around that time — made worse by $12 million in tax liens. At the time Suge filed the bankruptcy documents, he claimed to have no monthly income, few assets, and just $11 in his checking account. Current estimates of Suge Knight’s net worth are around $200,000.

Larry King

After landing his first radio gig in Miami in the 1960’s, Larry King admits to spending carelessly and “flying high,” despite earning a meager entry-level salary. His poor money management would worsen over time and eventually culminate into a 1971 arrest and grand larceny charge for allegedly stealing $5,000 from his Wall Street business partner. The charges would eventually be dropped, but not before ruining his radio career. For the next four years, King bounced unsuccessfully from job to job while spiraling deeper into debt before finally declaring bankruptcy in 1978. But as luck would have it, that very same year he was offered the late-night radio position that would become his famous – and lucrative – CNN show.

MC Hammer

After earning around $33 million from his Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em album back in 1990, MC Hammer built an exclusive $20 million mega-mansion complete with two swimming pools, a bowling alley, 33-seat theater, baseball diamond and 17 car garage. But this (actual) investment was nothing compared to the money Hammer spent on his 200 person crew: approximately $500,000 every month. In just six years, Hammer was forced to file for bankruptcy. He now lives much more modestly in a comfortable home outside of Los Angeles.

Donald Trump

You’d think that a man who’s filed for bankruptcy FOUR times would have a little more compassion for struggling Americans, but that’s just not Donald Trump. In 1991, 1992, 2004 and even 2009, four Trump companies/properties sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from the United States government. But Donald’s interpretation of bankruptcy is a lot different from yours or mine. Although the sum of Trump’s debt throughout the years is around $8 billion, to Trump, the “b” word is nothing more than “debt restructuring” – a business deal.

Throughout his financial crises, Trump has managed to stay afloat, and has even amassed a fortune somewhere in the range of $2.9 billion.

Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins

In 2011, former TLC member T-Boz filed for bankruptcy twice due (mostly) to mortgage non-payments amounting to nearly $800,000. But in her unique financial case, it seems her woes were less a consequence of overspending and more a consequence of simply not making enough money, that and her major medical issues – not to mention that she was owed $250,000 in child support. T-Boz had filed for bankruptcy (alongside her TLC groupmates) once before in 1995 when, despite selling millions of albums, they were only taking home a meager $35,000 each year.

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye filed for bankruptcy in 1976 after losing a considerable fortune to his ex-wife in order to make up for overdue alimony payments. His drug addictions and tax problems also weighed heavily on his finances. Gaye moved to Europe in 1981, though his finances never recovered. He was killed three years later.

La Toya Jackson

By 1995, La Toya Jackson had amassed enough debt from her failed singing career to warrant her declaration of bankruptcy. She never again attempted singing, but has made a number of reality TV appearances in recent years: Celebrity Apprentice, America’s Next Top Model, Armed and Famous

Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor’s financial demise was a sad story decades in the making. Back in the 1980’s, the former NY Giants linebacker was at the top of his game: he was one of the best players in the sport, had already won two Super Bowls, had earned a ton of money, and was well on his way to Pro Football Hall of Fame glory. For Taylor, success on the field warranted celebration everywhere else. He descended into a lifestyle of drinking, drug using and prostitute indulging – once spending thousands of dollars a day on just drugs. To make matters worse, toward the end of his career he started a business that would eventually flop; costing him money that he would be unable to recoup. By 2000, Taylor pled guilty to tax evasion, and by 2009 filed for bankruptcy in order to save his home from foreclosure.

These days it’s hard to tell whether Taylor is doing much better. Despite appearing on Dancing With the Stars in 2009 and doing rather well, he was charged with sexual assault of a minor after being voted off. He just won the case this past October, and declared that he now intends to “concentrate on [his] own broken life and try to repair [it].”

Tia Carrere

Actress Tia Carrere, best known for her role on Wayne’s World, filed for bankruptcy in 1986 after embarking on a contractual dispute with ABC in an attempt to back out of her role on General Hospital to join the cast of The A Team. Apparently, her General Hospital gig wasn’t paying enough to sustain her habit of overspending.

Ronald Isley

Ronald Isley, the smooth-voiced lead singer of the Isley Brothers, filed for bankruptcy in 1997 after the IRS seized his cars, yacht, and other property. Four years later the bankruptcy was settled, although Isley failed to file taxes from 1997 to 2001. The final straw came in 2002, when Isley filed his tax return but didn’t sign it – or pay any of the taxes due. He was charged with five counts of tax evasion and one count of failure to file a tax return, before being sentenced to 37 months in prison – a sentence he carried out until 2010. Since his release, there hasn’t been much word on Isley’s finances.

Teresa Giudice

It seems that every reality TV housewife in the Real Housewives of… series has struggled with finances. But for New Jersey housewife Teresa Giudice, her financial struggles seemed to be at the forefront of every tabloid and on-camera discussion. In the fall of 2009, Teresa and her husband filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy claiming debt of $8,700,000 in the wake of the economic downturn. Fellow housewives Sonja Morgan of Real Housewives of New York and Taylor Armstrong of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills have also filed for bankruptcy.

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