The lifestyle of the rich and famous is by no means cheap. A lot of the celebrities that we think are rich, as it turns out, are broke. Some of this is due to poor money management, bad business deals, rough divorces, or downright ridiculous spending habits. When you’re on top of the world, it’s easy to get caught up with spending money. That’s what happens to a lot of professional athletes. They don’t save their money, and spend it just as fast as it’s coming in because they think that they’ll be making millions for the rest of their lives and that isn’t the case. In fact, nearly 80% of professional NFL players are either bankrupt, or dealing with financial stress, just two years after retiring!
When you’re living the high life, you have expensive tastes. You can’t be caught shopping at Walmart because to be honest, it will probably ruin your image. So instead of living a life of fiscally responsibility, you spend money on things that you don’t even need to impress people you don’t even care about. With that in mind, here are 15 celebrities that amassed an insane amount of debt in just a few years! How did they do it? Find out how they all went broke by reading below.
15. Drake Bell (Reckless Spending) — $581,000
Drake Bell’s fall from grace hasn’t been pretty. The former Nickelodeon star has struggled to live up to the potential that he had as a teen star. His main sources of income are scattered between the voice acting work that he does as Spider-Man in particular. Other than that repeating role, we’re not really sure what Drake Bell does. We do know, however, that he was probably dropped by Nickelodeon after he was arrested on suspicion of DUI back in 2009. This was a little after Drake & Josh was coming to an end, and it more than likely killed any chances of him advancing his career.
So, how did Drake Bell end up in so much debt? To start, reckless spending. In 2007 (the year Drake & Josh ended) Bell purchased a 2,600 square foot house that cost approximately $2 million. He would have been about 21 when he bought the mansion, and he eventually fell behind on the payments. In 2014, Bell filed for bankruptcy and the house was taken from him. According to reports, he was in debt for a hefty $581,000. Maybe his debts are the reason why he’s been so desperate to have a reunion with Josh Peck.
14. Brendan Fraser (A Bad Divorce) — $900,000+
At the height of his career, it seemed like Brendan Fraser was just trying to star in as many movies as possible. Sometimes he found success, like in The Mummy trilogy and Bedazzled, but more often than not his movies kind of sucked. He was Hollywood’s hunk in the 90’s, and he may have just been trying to ride the wave of his good looks for as long as he could. In 1998, at the height of his career, Fraser married actress Afton Smith and they had three sons together.
In 2007, Fraser’s marriage fell apart. As part of the divorce, he was ordered to pay $900,000 every year as part of his child support and alimony payments. Just six years later, Fraser asked the courts to reduce his payments saying that he was unable to continue paying them. Reports state that Fraser had to pay around $50,000 every single month. In his own plea to the courts, he said that he was losing around $87,000 every month because he wasn’t earning any money! His ex-wife had no sympathy for him, and said that he could afford to keep making the payments because his net worth was an estimated $25 million.
13. Will Smith (Didn’t Pay Taxes) — $2,800,000
Back in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, Will Smith has known as “The Fresh Prince” and had quite the extravagant rap career. It all started when Will Smith paired up with DJ Jazzy Jeff, and the two released the hit single Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble, which made Smith a millionaire before he even left school. Smith, who spent money just as fast as it came in, had neglected to pay any taxes on his income. As a result, when the tax man came knocking for their cut of the pay, Smith had nothing to give them. He was over $2.8 million in debt when he was 19 years old.
Now, a lot of people don’t know this, but the hit sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air would have never existed if it wasn’t for Will Smith’s debt. When he was first offered the role, Smith had no interest in it other than the fact that it would help him pay off his debt. For the first three years, Smith says 70% of his earnings were taken by the IRS to pay off his previous debt! Luckily, the show was a massive success and Smith ended up making an absolute fortune from his acting. Today, Smith is said to be worth more than $250,000,000.
12. Lady Gaga (Risked Millions For Her Career) — $3,000,000
Lady Gaga’s financial troubles are somewhat unique because they didn’t happen until she was on top of the world. Back in 2009, Lady Gaga was trying to capitalize on the success of her album The Fame by creating such an elaborate concert performance that it literally left her penniless. According to Gaga, she spent $3 million on her tour and was left with nothing but pennies in her bank account, despite being a household name and rising star.
In interviews, Lady Gaga said that she was trying to get the attention of music promoter Arthur Fogel, who is responsible for the live shows of artists like U2, Madonna, and The Police. Her family criticized her for spending so much money on stage aesthetics, elaborate costumes, but her plan worked. She was eventually contacted by Arthur Fogel and offered $40 million to sign with his company, Live Nation Entertainment. Today, Gaga is worth around $275 million so it goes without saying that her plan paid off.
11. Teresa Giudice (Reckless Spending) — $11,000,000
Teresa Giudice was one of the many celebrities to emerge from The Real Housewives series. She is, perhaps the most famous to come from the series, because of the drawn out court case that she was involved in. Essentially, back in 2013, Teresa and her husband Joe were sentenced to numerous counts of fraud. She was sentenced to 15 months in prison, and he was sentenced to 41.
Their legal troubles started in 2009 when Teresa and her husband filed for bankruptcy, claiming that they were more than $11 million in debt. They filed for bankruptcy but made no adjustment to their spending, as they continued to live their luxurious lifestyle. They were found guilty of fraud after investigators discovered that the couple had millions in hidden assets. In late 2017, Giudice finally paid off the last of her debts and has even managed to profit from her criminal experience. She released a tell-all book that fans of The Real House Wives of New Jersey ate up.
10. Chris Tucker (Didn’t Pay Taxes) — $14,000,000
Chris Tucker has had the dream career. He had to grind his way up in the comedy world during the 1990’s, but he was eventually cast in Rush Hour alongside Jackie Chan. Following the success of Rush Hour, two sequels were made, which Tucker was paid around $45 million for. He was also given 20% of the gross from Rush Hour 3. And, other than that, Tucker has been laying low. He briefly appeared in Silver Linings Playbook five years after Rush Hour 3 was released, and released a Netflix special in 2015. For the most part, it seems that Tucker stopped working in the entertainment business because at one point, he had more money than he knew what to do with.
Despite his high earnings, Tucker neglected to pay his taxes for years. Eventually, the IRS came to collect what he owed them, which was an estimated $14 million. Chris Tucker’s representatives said that his debts are the result of “poor accounting and business management.” So it may not have been Tucker’s fault, but he really needs to find a new accountant.
9. Charlie Sheen (Reckless Spending) — $12,000,000
For whatever reason, Charlie Sheen was once the highest paid actor on TV. As Charlie in the show Two & A Half Men, Sheen was earning around $1.8 million per episode. He had stupid money. And, through issues with drugs, alcohol, ex-wives, child support, and insane spending, Sheen ended up in debt for more than $12 million. He owes so many different financial institutions money, that in 2016 he was actually sued for $300,000 by his credit card company!
To start, Sheen’s monthly expenses are over $100,000 a month. Every month, he pays $13,000 on his mortgage, $25,000 for healthcare, $11,500 for his children’s education, and another $26,000 for life and accident insurance. In addition, Sheen was ordered to pay $55,000 a month for child support. In 2016, Sheen tried to lower the monthly payments saying that he is earning significantly less than he was when he agreed to make the payments, which was back in 2011. It’s time for Sheen to sell one of (if not both) of his two mansions so he can stop bleeding more money every year than most of us will ever see.
8. MC Hammer (Reckless Spending) — $14,000,000
Let’s be honest, MC Hammer is essentially a glorified one hit wonder. But man, what a hit it was. When his song Can’t Touch This dropped, MC Hammer was making an estimated $33,000,000 a year. Despite how popular he was, it didn’t take him very long to blow through his fortune. So, how did he end up with such massive debt?
According to reports, MC Hammer had a staff of around 200 people to do just about whatever he wanted. He also traveled with an entourage of 40 different people, reportedly spending $500,000 per month to pay his employees. Then there’s his mansion, a $30 million, 40,000 square foot house that had two swimming pools, a recording studio, 17-car garage, 33-seat theater, baseball diamond, and multiple tennis courts. He also bought countless race horses, two helicopters, a private jet, and private limo. He would have been set for life if he didn’t spend so recklessly. MC Hammer was also at the bad end of numerous lawsuits over his song Can’t Touch This. After living the life of luxury for five years, MC Hammer filed for bankruptcy in 1996 saying he was $13 million in debt
7. Willie Nelson (Tax Evasion) — $16,000,000
Though he’s been making music forever, the iconic Willie Nelson once owed the IRS around $16,000,000. It’s one of the most notorious cases of tax evasion, but it’s a story that is always worth being told. In 1990, the IRS raided Willie Nelson’s home and seized everything he owned except for his favourite guitar, Trigger. Nelson anticipated that the tax man was going to come collect the $16.7 million that he owed them, so he took his guitar out of his home and put it safe. Through no fault of his own, Nelson owed the IRS so much money after they disallowed one of the deductions on his 1984 tax return. Fans of Nelson rushed to his aid, and many fundraisers were launched to help him pay off the money that he owed.
Despite originally owing $16.7 million, Nelson’s lawyers were able to talk the tax man to just $6 million. To completely pay off his debt, Nelson agreed to release an album and share the proceeds with the IRS. The album was called The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories? and although it didn’t sell very well, Nelson was able to pay off his debt with the help of his fans, and lawsuits that went in his favor.
6. Michael Vick (Reckless Spending) — $17,600,000
Michael Vick was once a phenomenal quarterback in the NFL. His career was temporarily put on hold when he was sentenced to 23 months in prison for running a dog fighting ring back in 2007. When he was released from prison, Vick tried to start his football career once more but failed to match his previous success. He wasn’t the superstar that he once was. Vick owed money to his football team, the Atlanta Falcons, for his failed contract and had a ton of monthly payments to make on all of his possessions.
Vick’s financial troubles piled up when he went to prison. He was virtually unable to continue to make payments to his creditors which is why he filed for bankruptcy in 2008. At the time, he was said to have owed around $17,600,000 to his money lenders. Late last year, however, Vick finally paid off his debts. He was able to fork up the cash by earning $50,000,000 between 2010 and 2014, in addition to working for Fox Sports as a studio analyst for the NFL.
5. Mike Tyson (Reckless Spending) — $23,000,000+
The story of Mike Tyson is one of the most unfortunate in sporting history. Throughout his career, Tyson earned more than $300 million and just as quickly as he earned it, he spent it. He didn’t have anyone around him to tell him to not blow his fortune on ridiculous things, like when he spent $140,000 on two white Bengal tigers and paid a trainer $125,000 a year to take care of them.
In fact, when it comes to ridiculous celebrity spending, Tyson takes the cake. He spent $230,000 on cellphones and pagers from 1995 to 1997, $410,000 on a birthday party, $2,000,000 on a bath tub for his first wife, $3,400,000 on clothes and jewelry, and he employed up to 200 people, including bodyguards, chefs, and gardeners. In 2004, one year before he officially retired, Tyson was somewhere between $23,000,000 — $38,000,000 in debt!
4. 50 Cent (Reckless Spending) — $36,000,000
50 Cent’s tale of bankruptcy has been in the news a lot lately. After he had formally filed for bankruptcy, 50 Cent continued to post photos of himself on social media flaunting large sums of money. According to 50 Cent, he filed for the type of bankruptcy that meant he had money, it’s his businesses that were struggling to stay afloat. In 2016, 50 Cent was ordered by a court to pay $23,000,000 to his creditors over the next five years, which may explain the sudden resurgence of his acting career. Then again, 50 Cent also made close to $100,000,000 when one of the companies he invested in, Vitamin Water, was sold to Coca-Cola. Nobody knows how much money 50 Cent actually has.
In early 2018, 50 Cent seemed to have lucked out when he suddenly remembered that years ago, he allowed fans to buy his album Animal Ambition with cryptocurrency. Fans gave him around 700 bitcoin for different copies of the album, and 50 Cent forgotten all about the cryptocurrency until recently. Today, those bitcoins are worth a pretty $8,000,000!
3. Toni Braxton (Reckless Spending) — $50,000,000
Toni Braxton was a massive celebrity back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Her song, Un-Break My Heart topped the charts in 1996 and for all intents and purposes, she was a global superstar. She dominated the Grammy’s for years but somewhere along the way, Braxton ended up broke.
Toni Braxton’s financial troubles are the result of her getting screwed by the entertainment industry. For example, she had over $170 million in worldwide sales, but was only given just under $2,000 for her very first recording contract. Essentially, she had to keep asking the record company for money, and they agreed to give her it but she would have to pay them back. This debt to the record company kept building, and she was forced to file for her first bankruptcy in 1998. Her second bankruptcy came in 2010 due to unexpected medical costs and she hasn’t bounced back!
2. Kanye West — $58,000,000
Kanye West is a dreamer. He puts his heart and soul into every project he releases no matter the cost. Despite the worldwide success of his music, clothing lines, and the fact that he’s married to Kim Kardashian, Kanye West has some serious financial troubles. It’s surprising that someone so successful can have so much trouble managing their money, but here we are.
In a series of now-deleted tweets, Kanye admitted that he was around $53,000,000 in personal debt. Kanye said that his debt was the result of chasing his dreams of taking over the fashion industry. For example, he tried to release a high-end women’s-wear line back in 2011, but he never made it to stores. According to reports, this attempt cost him a hefty $30,000,000 upfront. Though he has now found some success with his Yeezy line, Kanye said that during his first launch year, he lost $16,000,000. He may be broke, but he’s definitely ambitious.
1. Michael Jackson — $500,000,000+
When Michael Jackson died in 2009, he was around $400-500 million in debt. Despite being labeled the King of Pop, Michael Jackson hit financial hardships in 1993 when he first accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy. He settled out of court with the boy’s family, but his financial hardships continued. He continued to borrow extravagant money from banks, like $200,000,000 from the Bank of America and near the end of his life, he was facing foreclosure on the iconic Neverland Ranch.
However, in less than ten years after his death, Michael Jackson’s estate has managed to turn his debt completely around. At some point in his career, Jackson had a 50 percent stake in Sony/ATV. In 2016, Sony bought out Jackson’s estate for his share. Additionally, the documentary Michael Jackson’s This Is It was released four months after his death by his estate. It went on to be the highest-grossing music documentary of all time, earning more than $300 million at the box office, and earned the estate a total of $200 million after it was released to DVD.
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