The Wheel of Fortune is perhaps one of the most recognisable, iconic images found on the tarot cards. The Wheel of Fortune represents how things can change suddenly, at any moment. Though you may find yourself at the top surprisingly quickly, you could just as easily find yourself at the bottom in the next breath. The wheel can shift at any time and change your fortune. This analogy serves as a warning that we all shouldn’t take good fortune – financial or circumstantial – for granted.
There’s a lot of hard work involved in making a whole lot of money, but there’s also a huge level of luck involved and – as we all know – luck can change quickly. There are people out there worth mind boggling amounts of money, but nobody’s really invincible. There are many multi-millionaires and billionaires through the years who’ve reached the top and then fallen hard. Below we’ve taken a look at some of the wealthiest people on the planet who managed to blow their fortunes in almost as spectacular a manner as they made them. While some of them managed to keep their heads above water, and some bounced back even better than before, money troubles unfortunately proved too much for a few unfortunate and irresponsible one-time millionaires on this list.
9. Anna Nicole Smith
Anna Nicole Smith was a well known name in the world of celebrity. She first made her name as a model, posing for Playboy and Guess. She would later go on to act on screen in such projects as The Hudsucker Proxy and Ally McBeal. She became infamous for marrying the oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall, when Marshall was 89 years old and Smith was just 26. Smith was labelled by many as a gold digger, but it was this marriage that would eventually lead to her financial downfall. After she was left out of Marshall’s will, Smith entered a lengthy court case to attempt to claim half of Marshall’s fortune. During the case, she was found guilty of sexual harassment in a separate case, and Smith filed for bankruptcy. She died of a drug overdose before the case reached its conclusion.
8. Evander Holyfield
Evander Holyfield is a professional American boxer. He enjoyed a very successful career before retiring in 2012. His success in the ring led to him being christened “The Real Deal” by his fans. However, outside the ring, his personal and financial life was a mess. Holyfield has fathered a total of eleven children by six different mothers – and he’s no longer with any of those women. As well as having to support his numerous children, Holyhead has run into trouble with various businesses, including Washington Mutual Bank, who were compelled to auction off Holyfield’s $10 million home in 2008.
7. Mike Tyson
Mike Tyson has had a colourful financial history. The boxing champion has been in and out of more debt than your average celebrity. Despite once being worth almost $500 million, Tyson’s highly erratic, nonsensical spending habits mean that he has squandered this mind boggling amount of money. Tyson is known for his penchant for expensive jewellery and even more expensive sports cars. His crazy spending habits peaked with his purchase of three rare Bengal tigers for $114,000, which is above the annual salary of the average American. However, Tyson’s spending soon caught up with him, and in 2003 he filed for bankruptcy.
6. Kim Basinger
Kim Basinger made her name as one of the most famous Bond girls of all time. Kim quickly became a sex symbol, and with that, she made a huge amount of money. However, Basinger became known for having slightly erratic spending habits, particularly after she purchased an entire town for a staggering $20 million. A few years later, Basinger pulled out of the film Boxing Helena, which she was contracted to appear in. This lead to a legal dispute which resulted in the film studio suing Basinger. Basinger attempted to sell off her town (Braselton, Georgia) to pay legal fees. However, the value of the town had plummeted to just $1 million, meaning that Basinger was forced to file for bankruptcy.
5. Sarah Ferguson
Despite close familial connections with the British Royal Family, Sarah Ferguson – the Duchess of York – has been plagued by financial troubles in her lifetime. Recently, Oprah Winfrey even produced a documentary series about her life, in which Ferguson infamously claimed “I don’t really understand finances at all.” This is clearly not an exaggeration, given that her excessive lifestyle has made her infamous. Ferguson has been judged in the past for living far too extravagantly but it was her shady dealings with tabloid reporters that led to her downfall. Ferguson offered an undercover tabloid reporter access to Prince Andrew in exchange for £500,000 back in 2010. After the scandal, Ferguson was completely broke and millions of dollars in debt.
4. Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Cage is renowned (or notorious) for his less than discerning approach to the films in which he stars. For the majority of his career, Cage has starred in between two and three films every single year. Although many critique his acting and his role choices, he’s now one of the most highly paid actors in Hollywood, raking in up to $20 million per film. Despite his incredible wages, Cage has proven himself to be a disaster with money. Cage bulldozed through a personal fortune of $100 million in a few short years. Alcohol, drugs and gambling weren’t even the chief contributors to his financial downfall: In fact, Cage simply has uncontrollable spending habits. He owns four yachts, 15 homes and several private islands. Cage is also known for more bizarre purchases, such as the sabre toothed tiger skull he bought for $276,000!
3. Björgólfur Guðmundsson
Björgólfur Guðmundsson is an Icelandic businessman, and at one time was the richest man in Iceland. Guðmundsson and his son, Thor, were two of the most powerful men in the country, with large shares in huge companies such as Landsbanki, the most popular bank in the country. In 2008, Guðmundsson was declared a billionaire by Forbes magazine. However, Guðmundsson would be declared bankrupt just a few months later during Iceland’s catastrophic economic crisis. Guðmundsson dabbled in fraud, a practice which many Icelanders still believe to be one of the main causes of the country’s financial crisis. Guðmundsson paid the ultimate price though, with his net worth plummeting from $1 billion to nothing in six months.
2. Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson is probably one of the most well-known pop stars in history, one of the most recognisable figures in popular culture and is the most successful recording artist of all time. However, despite his popularity, the star was plagued by debt at the time of his death. In 2009, Jackson filed for bankruptcy, and there was speculation that he was hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. Jackson once famously signed a billion dollar record contract, but even this was not enough to protect him. Jackson’s spending became more and more erratic in the years before his death, with experts estimating that he was chugging through over $30 million a year. Still, his legacy has proven lucrative and the Jackson empire has continued to make millions in the years following Michael Jackson’s death.
1. Sean Quinn
Sean Quinn was once Ireland’s wealthiest man, and had a true rags-to-riches road to fortune. In just a few short years, Quinn turned a small bank loan into a billion dollar business empire that dabbled in manufacturing, mining and insurance. However, Quinn was another fatality of the banking crisis. He made a fatal decision when he chose to invest in a 25% stake in Anglo Irish Bank (AIB) back in 2008. At the time, the economy was hurtling towards the massive global recession, but Quinn had no knowledge of this. Soon after his investment, AIB was in ruins. This turn of the economic tide absorbed all of Quinn’s $6 billion fortune, meaning that Quinn suffered the biggest recession-caused financial loss in the entire world.