Biggest Personal Bankruptcies

Bankruptcy, Borrowing

Rapper 50 Cent is currently going through the unpleasant experience of personal bankruptcy. That’s right, the man named after money, the man who sang, “Have a baby by me baby be a millionaire,” is now in bankruptcy court. Like many before him in the entertainment industry, overspending and lifestyle issues put 50 Cent (real name: Curtis Jackson) too far in debt. The last straw was a $7-million judgment against 50 Cent for posting a sex tape on the Internet without the subject’s permission.

According to court documents, “Fiddy” has total assets of $24.8 million and $32.5 million in liabilities, for a $7.7 million dollar shortfall. While being more than $7 million in the hole sounds bad, it is nowhere near the largest deficit accrued.

One of the greatest discharges of debt ever took place in Ireland recently. Seán Quinn, the Irish tycoon and owner of the Quinn group, at one point had a net worth of $6 billion and was 164th in Forbes’ world ranking of billionaires. Quinn used risky contracts to invest in real estate at just the wrong time‚ immediately before the global financial crisis in 2008. He declared bankruptcy in 2011, and in early 2015, he was finally released from approximately 2 billion Euros ($2.2 billion) in debt.

Australian businessman Alan Bond, who died recently, was also one of the top holders of debt at the time of insolvency. In 1992, Bond filed bankruptcy, claiming debts of 1.8 billion in Australian dollars (around $1.3 billion at current exchange rates). Bond later served prison time for siphoning off controlling interests in one of his companies to shore up the resources of his Bond Corporation.

For some of the largest American bankruptcies, we look to Texas. As you might expect, a few Texans are noted as having some of the highest personal debts — since they do everything bigger in Texas.

The Hunt brothers, Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt, inherited significant oil money from their father H. L. Hunt, but were best known for their attempts to corner the silver market in 1979 and 1980. In January 1980, silver peaked at $49.45 an ounce and the Hunts had $9.6 billion worth of silver bullion and futures contracts. By the last week in March, silver had dropped below $11 per ounce and the Hunts were stuck with margin calls and over $1.75 billion in silver-related obligations to deal with.

Do not feel too sorry for the Hunts, though — their oil holdings were protected in a trust and W.H. Hunt is once again near billionaire status thanks to his oil holdings in the Bakken shale in North Dakota.

Clint Murchison, Jr. was a Texas businessman with a family background in oil and success in a diverse set of businesses — and a founder of one of the most iconic sports franchises in history, the Dallas Cowboys. Murchison was taken down by energy and real estate deals gone bad, and he declared insolvency in 1985 with approximately $500 million in liabilities.

For a different type of Texan, consider Willie Nelson, who declared bankruptcy in 1990 with $16.7 million in unpaid back taxes as a driving force. At least he released a 1992 album titled “The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories” as part of his payback efforts.

There are many cases in professional sports, but one of the saddest may be Lenny Dykstra, the spunky New York Met and Philadelphia Phillie who set out to be a financial guru after baseball, but ended up declaring bankruptcy in 2009 with $50 million in liabilities and only $50,000 in assets. He followed that up by serving time after pleading no-contest to charges of grand theft auto and filing a false financial statement.

Although this mostly tragic list should be making you take a long hard look at your spending habits (we hope), the best lesson might be from Willie Nelson (who is currently worth $25 million). The country crooner faced his money woes head on and turned things around. So keep your head up, Mr. Jackson, and keep on working. Maybe you can get a job in a “Candy Shop.”

50 Cent photo © | Willie Nelson photo by joshbg2k ( [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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