Garvey Tirelli & Cushner

Fun! Famous Bankruptcies

Home | News Articles | Finding Fraudulent Documents | 5 Myths About Bankruptcy | "Tips for Debtors" | "Ch 7 vs. Ch 13" | "Bankruptcy Lingo" | "History of Bankruptcy" | "Our Services" | Bankruptcy Boot Camp | "Meet Linda M. Tirelli, Esq." | "Bankruptcy Q&A" | "Fun! Famous Bankruptcies" | "Contact Us"

Yes! There is Life After Debt!


So many clients have expressed their reluctance to file for bankruptcy protection because they are afraid they will be considered failures and irresponsible by the public. It is important to realize that many people, including famous celebrities, US Presidents, authors, musicians, politicians, great inventors and even industry leaders have faced similar financial difficulties and filed for bankruptcy to discharge their debts. 

To those of you who feel some sort of self inflicted shame or loss of self esteem for having to consider filing for Bankruptcy Protection, sit back and rest assured, you are not alone .  In fact, you are in good company!   Here is a bit of perspective, below is a list of 75 historical and otherwise famous individuals who filed for Bankruptcy Protection.  The list is in no particular order and in no way is intended to embarrass or harass any of the parties listed.  The purpose of publishing this list  on our site is to reiterate that you are not alone!   You should look at this time in your life as a stepping stone to go on to achieve bigger and better things!  The best is yet to come.....

75 Famous People Who Filed for Bankruptcy Protection:

1. Benedict Arnold 

2. P.T. Barnum (Yes, as in the man who later went on to start the “Greatest Show on Earth!”)

3. Kim Bassinger

4.  George Best

5. John Wayne Bobbitt

6.  Lorraine Bracco

7.  Toni Braxton

8.  Lenny Bruce

9.  Buffalo Bill

10.  Tia Carrere

11. George Clinton

12. Gary Coleman

13. Francis Ford Coppola

14. David Crosby

That’s right! Walt Disney’s name is synonymous with Mickey Mouse and the “happiest place on earth,” Disneyland. However, 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. It must have been fate because Disney then headed to Hollywood and became one of the highest paid animators in history.

16. Jim Dooley

17. William C. Durant

8. Mick Fleetwood

19. Heidi Fleiss

20. Zsa Zsa Gabor

21. Leif Garrett

22. Marvin Gaye

23. Ulysses S. Grant

24. Archie Griffin

25. Corey Haim

26. Dorothy Hamill

27. MC Hammer

28. Isaac Hayes

29. Milton Snavely Hershey

(Our ode to “Persistence pays off.”)
Milton Snavely Hershey founded Hershey’s Foods Corporation in 1903 but didn’t find success immediately in life. Hershey dropped out of school after 4th grade, because his family moved around a lot, and got an apprenticeship as a printer. He wasn’t keen on the business and tried his hand at candy. His first four attempts 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.

30. Perez Hilton

31. Ronald Isley

32. LaToya Jackson

33. Don Johnson

34. Margot Kidder

35.  Larry King
Larry King has interviewed over 30,000 people during his career but his 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 $5,000 from a business partner. The charges were dropped but he struggled to get back on his feet and ended up claiming bankruptcy in 1978.

36. Suge Knight
Suge Knight filed for bankruptcy in 2006 and had $11 dollars in his bank account at the time. Lydia Harris was suing him for $107 million because she claimed to have been cheated out of a 50% stake in Death Row Records even though Knight claims they settled the matter for $1 million. Neilson is operating Death Row Records during the bankruptcy proceedings so Knight can focus on getting back on his feet financially.

37. Cyndi Lauper

38. Jerry Lee Lewis

39. Abraham Lincoln
The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, declared bankruptcy in 1833 and spent 17 years of his paying off the money that he borrowed from friends to start his business. It took Lincoln 30 years to achieve his goal of becoming President of the United States.

40. Meat Loaf
Meat Loaf’s 1977 album Bat Out of Hell still sells around 200,000 copies a year and you may also recognize him from roles in Fight Club and The Rocky Horror Picture Show but in 1983 he wasn’t doing so well and had to declare bankruptcy. He was $1.6 million in debt at the time.

41. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes

42. William McKinley

43. Willie Nelson

44. 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. Luckily, he found his way out of debt in Vegas: performing at the Stardust hotel not at the craps table

45. Ted Nugent

46. Thomas Paine

47. Tom Petty

48. Bud Post

49. Tammy Wynette

50. Susan Powter
Susan Powter wrote three books in the 1990s, which became New York Times best sellers, and made Powter the diet and exercise go-to girl.(”Stop the Insanity!”) The crew-cutted, bleach blonde Powter
filed for bankruptcy in 1995 because legal fees “have wiped me out.”

51. Randy Quaid

52. Rembrandt

53. Tommy Rettig

54. Burt Reynolds

55. Mickey Rooney

56. Anna Nicole Smith

57. Dee Snider

58. Lynn Spears
Lynn Spears and her husband filed for bankruptcy in 1998 right before her daughter, Britney, became a superstar.

59. Sheryl Swoopes

60. Lawrence Taylor

61. 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.

62. 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 and discharged all his debts, but was determined to repay the debts. He knew he could earn money by giving lectures to large audiences, so he 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. He also wrote several of his more famous books after filing bankruptcy including Pudd'nhead Wilson and Following the Equator.

63. Mike Tyson

64. Oscar Wilde

65. Ray Winstone

66.  Mathew Brady

67. 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. He immediately started a new company and introduced a new condiment, tomato ketchup to the market. This company was, and continues to be, very prosperous.

68. Sherman Hemsley

69.  Henry Ford

Famous automobile manufacturer, first two automobile manufacturing companies failed. The first company filed for bankruptcy and the second ended because of a disagreement with his 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

70. 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 against Michael Moorer in 1994. This second chance at success enabled him to pay off millions of dollars of debt and launch a new career as an entrepreneur hawking George Foreman Grills. Millions have been sold.

71.  Sammy Kershaw

72.  Thomas Jefferson

73. Debbie Reynolds

74. Johnny Unitas

75.  Marjorie Margolies Mezvinsky

A former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 1995, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in February 2000. She was denied a discharge however because she failed to satisfactorily explain and disclose what happened to all her assets.

"The Trump Card", Robin Goldwyn Blumenthal, Barrons, URL: (

"Fool's Fortunes", Timothy L. O'Brien,
New York
Times, URL: (

"Debt disasters of the rich and famous", Amy Fleitas and Paul Bannister, MSN Money, URL: (

"Toughest jump of all", Tommy Hine, AP, URL: (

One Final Note...

Please bear in mind that Bankruptcy is not the way to go if you are seeking fame and want to run with the “in-crowd” but it is a tool available to give you a fresh start so you can move ahead and achieve your goals.  Pardon the cliche, but Bankruptcy is not an “end” but rather a new beginning.  Once you accept this as part of your philosophy, you will feel more empowered.  Once empowered, you will be in a better position mentally to put your financial problems behind you and prepare for the new and exciting challenges that lie ahead.







Garvey Tirelli & Cushner Ltd.
50 Main Street Suite 390
Wite Plains, NY 10606


This site  The Web

Hosting by