Celebrities can get rich, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re good with money or that they’ll always have wealth at their fingertips. Many well-known stars have had to declare bankruptcy.
Sonja Morgan of “Real Housewives of New York City” (seen here on “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen”) is one of the many stars who has experienced financial trouble.
Which actors, musicians, comedians, athletes, and other entertainers have had fame without the fortune? Quite a few. For the record, we only counted celebrities who filed for personal bankruptcy, so celebrity-fronted businesses aren’t included here.
InfoWars founder Alex Jones filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2022, citing nearly $1.5 billion worth of debt. A court had ordered Jones to pay hundreds of millions in damages to the parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012. Jones had repeatedly referred to the mass shooting as a “hoax.”
Attorneys for the Sandy Hook families called the bankruptcy filing “cowardly,” but Jones says he will prove that he doesn’t have any money. According to the filing, his assets are between $1 million and $10 million.
Todd Chrisley of “Chrisley Knows Best” may not know best when it comes to finances. In August 2012, the business executive filed for bankruptcy, claiming $49.4 million in debt.
Two years later, his family got a reality show about its lavish lifestyle.
In 2019, Chrisley and wife Julie were indicted on tax evasion, bank fraud, and wire fraud charges. They were convicted and sentenced to 12 and 7 years in prison, respectively, in November 2022. “Chrisley Knows Best” was canceled.
Teresa and Joe Giudice
Teresa and Joe Giudice were first featured on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” in 2009, the same year they filed for bankruptcy. They claimed they were nearly $11 million in debt. In 2013, they were charged for attempting to defraud lenders and hiding income during their bankruptcy. They both served prison time.
Today, the Giudices are divorced. Joe was deported to his native Italy, and Teresa is remarried to Luis Ruelas.
Teresa Giudice isn’t the only member of the “Real Housewives” family with financial issues. RHONY cast member Sonja Morgan filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010 after divorcing her husband. She reportedly stated that she owed $19.8 million to creditors and had $13.5 million in assets.
Morgan settled her debt in 2015.
PK and Dorit Kemsley
Paul “PK” and Dorit Kemsley of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” fame also ran into financial (and legal) troubles. PK filed for personal bankruptcy in 2012 in the U.K., but a New York court ordered that his case be transferred to the U.S., since it’s his primary residence.
He married Dorit in 2015. The drama has been ongoing. Fellow RHOBH castmate Camille Grammer confronted Dorit about her husband’s debts in one contentious 2019 episode.
Abby Lee Miller
Lifetime’s show “Dance Moms” centered around Abby Lee Miller, the owner and instructor at a popular Pennsylvania dance studio. Miller had applied for personal bankruptcy in 2010, citing debts of $400,000.
However, in 2017 she was convicted of bankruptcy fraud after federal investigators found over $775,000 in hidden bank accounts. Miller was released from prison in early 2018.
The late Aaron Carter once filed for personal bankruptcy in 2013, claiming to be $2 million in debt. Most of what he owed involved back taxes from when his parents controlled his finances during his teen pop star years.
The singer tried to build back his career before he was found dead at age 34 in November 2022.
Francis Ford Coppola
Director Francis Ford Coppola has declared bankruptcy three times. His financial troubles stemmed from the production of his 1982 musical film “One From the Heart,” which was a flop. Coppola had funded the movie with his own money.
He eventually paid off his debts, but Coppola is still funding his own projects, like the drama “Megalopolis” for which he spent $100 million.
Toni Braxton filed for bankruptcy twice: once in 1998 and again in 2010, when she claimed debts between $10 million and $50 million.
In an interview, Braxton said her her first bankruptcy was due to a spending addiction, but that the second occurred when she canceled her self-funded Vegas show after receiving a diagnosis of microvascular angina, which causes chest pain.
Burt Reynolds has been a successful star, but after his marriage to actress Lori Anderson ended in an expensive divorce (combined with an extravagant lifestyle) he declared bankruptcy in 1996 with $11.2 million in debt.
The actor got himself out of bankruptcy two years later, but had ongoing financial issues. Reynolds died from cardiac arrest in September 2018, at the age of 82.
Curtis Jackson, better known by stage name 50 Cent, rose to fame with his album “Get Rich or Die Tryin’.” He certainly got rich, but in July 2015, the rapper filed for personal bankruptcy for debts between $10 million and $50 million.
His bankruptcy ended a year later with a payout of $23 million.
David “Young Buck” Brown is a rapper who filed for bankruptcy first in 2010, and then again in 2020.
The hip-hop star owed money to not only to G-Unit Records, but also its co-founder, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. Brown has blamed Jackson for his bankruptcy.
Dina Lohan, mom to actress Lindsay Lohan, filed for bankruptcy in 2018 to save her family home. She reported being $1.7 million in debt.
Dina is seen here in 2022 with Lindsay in New York City.
Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick was convicted for being part of a dog-fighting ring in 2007 and spent 19 months in prison. In 2008, he also filed for bankruptcy with debts of $17.6 million.
Vick eventually paid back $17.4 million of that debt, saying “I didn’t want to stiff people who never stiffed me.”
Former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson was a top earner during his boxing career. But thanks to a lavish lifestyle, he was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2003 with a debt of around $23 million.
Tyson has since recouped his losses, thanks in part to taking on Hollywood film roles and a successful cannabis brand, Tyson 2.0.
Before she was a solo artist, Cyndi Lauper was in a band called Blue Angels. In 1980, the band’s manager, Steve Massarsky, sued Lauper for $80,000. The singer filed for bankruptcy.
Lauper’s hit album “She’s So Unusual” came out in 1983, and thanks to subsequent success, she was able to settle the case in 1984.
In 2012, actor Gary Busey declared bankruptcy with less than $50,000 in assets and between $500,000 and $1 million in debt.
He emerged from bankruptcy later that year. In 2022, Busey was charged with sex offenses for alleged misconduct with fans during a convention.
Rapper Kimberly “Lil’ Kim” Jones filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2018 in an attempt to not lose her New Jersey mansion. She reportedly owed nearly $4 million.
By 2019, thanks to her appearance on the VH1 reality show “Girls Cruise,” she was in the clear and asked a judge to dismiss her bankruptcy case.
Former supermodel Janice Dickinson filed for bankruptcy in 2013, owing around $1 million to the IRS and to various plastic surgeons.
Dickinson later received a large settlement from Bill Cosby’s insurance company when she sued him for defamation. Cosby denied allegations he had raped her in 1982.
In 1989, actress Kim Basinger purchased most of the privately owned land in Braselton, Georgia, for $20 million with the intent of turning it into a tourist town, but the project largely failed. In 1993, she pulled out of starring in “Boxing Helena” and was successfully sued by the producers for $8.1 million.
Basinger filed for bankruptcy the same year, which she settled in 1995.
Kim Basinger was famously married to Alec Baldwin during her financial crisis, but she wasn’t the only member of his family with money problems. His brother Stephen Baldwin filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, owing about $2.3 million to the IRS, creditors, and mortgage lenders.
Baldwin later pled guilty to tax evasion in 2013.
Musician David Crosby has had a long and eventful life in the public eye. He filed for bankruptcy in 1985, two years after a publicized arrest for drug and weapon possession.
In March 2021, facing financial setbacks amid the pandemic, Crosby sold off his music and publishing rights and paid off his house.
Longtime Las Vegas performer Wayne Newton has had a long history of financial problems, which began with him filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1992 over $20 million in debt from bad investments.
His later money issues included owing back taxes and fines amassed after abandoning a private jet at a Michigan airport storage facility.
When the NFL defensive lineman retired in 2008, the Hall of Famer made a series of bad business decisions and ended up $6.7 million in debt.
Sapp filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2012, which meant that his assets were liquidated to pay back his lenders. He’s seen here in June 2022 training the Washington Commanders.
Michael Aday, better known by his stage name Meat Loaf, was successful in the 1970s. But in 1983, he had to file for personal bankruptcy after years of money mismanagement and lawsuits from former managers. To pay off his debts, he sold the rights to all of his music.
The rock singer died in January 2022 at age 74,
Comedian Sinbad filed for bankruptcy in 2009 after he was named one of the 10 worst tax debtors in the state of California — owing $2.5 million in personal income tax. He sold his home to cover the costs.
As of 2022, Sinbad was still recovering from an ischemic stroke he had two years earlier.
The late musician Tom Petty didn’t declare bankruptcy in 1979 because he was broke — he did it as a legal maneuver after his label, Shelter Records, was sold to the much larger MCA, which refused to change the terms of Petty’s meager recording contract despite his growing success.
After Petty financed his own record and declared bankruptcy, MCA agreed to let the singer-songwriter out of the deal, and then re-signed him with a more favorable contract.
La Toya Jackson
Entertainer La Toya Jackson (older sister of the late Michael Jackson) had to declare bankruptcy in 1995 after being sued for $650,000 by the Moulin Rouge club in Paris, which said Jackson failed to stay for her full six-month contract with the famous club.
In 2010, Jackson tried to re-open the bankruptcy, but a judge denied her request.
Former center fielder Lenny Dykstra didn’t exactly hit a home run after filing for bankruptcy in July 2009, claiming less than $50,000 in assets to his name. Two years later, he was indicted on bankruptcy fraud and embezzlement charges.
He was convicted and served six-and-a-half months behind bars in 2013.
Singer Dionne Warwick filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2013. She had unpaid taxes totaling $10 million. The case wasn’t dismissed until 2019.
A documentary about her life called “Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over” was expected to premiere on CNN in 2023.
Anna Nicole Smith
Model Anna Nicole Smith (born Vickie Hogan) married billionaire J. Howard Marshall in 1994. She was 26 and he was 89, and he died a year later without leaving Smith in his will. In 1996, she declared bankruptcy.
There were many contentious court battles over the estate among Marshall’s children and Smith, going all the way up to the Supreme Court. Smith died from an overdose in 2007.
Former teen star Drake Bell of “Drake & Josh” fame filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2014. While he had more than $1 million in assets, he declared $2.17 million in debt on court documents.
Bell was sentenced to probation in 2021 for charges involving a minor.
Funk singer George Clinton filed for bankruptcy in 1984 over $2 million he owed his manager and recording company. He lost the rights to his music over it in 2001.
He eventually got the rights back to four albums he recorded at Warner Bros., but others still own the bulk of his catalog with his two bands, Parliament and Funkadelic.
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac filed for bankruptcy in 1984, owing nearly $3.7 million. He blamed his financial problems on severe drug and alcohol addiction. Fleetwood reportedly sobered up by the ’90s.
The musician publicly mourned the passing of his bandmate Christine McVie in November 2022.
Actor Joey Lawrence declared bankruptcy in 2017, stating he was $355,000 in debt. His income decreased dramatically after his show “Melissa & Joey” ended in 2015.
The bankruptcy was settled by 2018.
Stanley Burrell, better known by his stage name MC Hammer, was one of the most popular rappers of the early ’90s. By 1996, however, he filed for bankruptcy. His assets were listed at $1 million while his debts totaled $10 million.
In 2016, he was a spokesperson for Command hooks.
Actress Teri Polo, known for her role in “Meet the Parents” and “The Fosters,” filed for bankruptcy in 2014.
She listed her assets as being less than $50,000, while her debts totaled $809,000.
Actor Gary Coleman made millions for his role on “Diff’rent Strokes,” but after years of costly legal and medical battles, he filed for bankruptcy in 1999.
In May 2010, Coleman died from a brain hemorrhage at 42 after falling down the stairs at his home.
Jose Canseco was an MLB star, though he later admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. By 2012, he was out of money.
The Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing listed that Canseco had less than $21,000 in assets, with $1.7 million in liabilities.
Actor Mekhi Phifer filed for bankruptcy in 2014, stating that he had $1.3 million in debt due to back taxes, lawyer bills and child support back pay.
Phifer is known for his roles in “ER,” 8 Mile” and the “Divergent” film series.
Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins
Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins is the “T” in the R&B group TLC. In 2011, she declared bankruptcy twice: once in February and again in October, only a month after the February case had been dismissed.
Watkins owed nearly $769,000, mostly from mortgages and medical issues.
Randy and Evi Quaid
Actor Randy Quaid and his wife, Evi, filed for bankruptcy in 2000. They owed around $619,000 in taxes.
But their story doesn’t end there. In October 2010, the couple fled to Canada, claiming that they feared for their lives. They didn’t go back to the U.S. until 2015.
Former Death Row Records CEO Marion “Suge” Knight is known as one of the leading figures of gangsta rap. Due financial mismanagement and civil litigation against Knight, he declared bankruptcy in 2006.
The case went on for two years, and Knight eventually lost Death Row Records and its catalog, his mansion and many of his personal items. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison in 2018 after he fatally hit someone with his car during a confrontation.
Former professional figure skater Dorothy Hamill took home the gold medal at the 1976 U.S. Olympics. Twenty years later, she filed for bankruptcy, saying that she was $1.7 million in debt.
She faulted her ex-husband, Kenneth Forsythe, for giving her bad financial advice.
Nadya Suleman lived in a three-bedroom apartment with her mother and six children when she used IVF to get pregnant with octuplets in 2008. Dubbed “Octomom” by the media, she was living on government assistance at the time.
In 2012, she filed for bankruptcy with $1 million in debt from living and schooling expenses. Two years later, she pleaded no contest to welfare fraud charges after failing to report payments from her media appearances.
“Gossip Girl” actress Kelly Rutherford faced money problems after a complicated child custody case. She wanted to raise her children in the U.S., while her German ex-husband, entrepreneur Daniel Giersch, wanted to raise them in France and Monaco after his American visa was revoked.
The expensive custody battle put Rutherford $2 million in debt, and she filed for bankruptcy in June 2013. Giersch was eventually awarded full custody.
Ronald Isley, founding member of the Isley Brothers singing group, declared bankruptcy twice: once in 1984 and again in 1997. After those bankruptcies were filed, however, Isley failed to pay taxes.
In 2008, an appellate court upheld a ruling that sentenced Isley to three years in prison for tax evasion.
Gary Dourdan of “CSI” fame has filed for bankruptcy twice, first in 2011 and again in 2015. In the first bankruptcy, he listed $1.73 million in debts and $1.8 million in assets.
For the second bankruptcy, he claimed he was down to $904 in his bank account and owed more than $14,000.
Antoine Walker amassed $108 million in his 13-year-career as a Boston Celtics player. But in 2010, he had to declare bankruptcy with $4.3 million in assets and $12.7 million in liabilities.
Two years later, Walker was debt-free. Today, he’s an advocate for financial literacy.
Mario Lavandeira Jr., known as Perez Hilton professionally, wrote in his book “TMI: My Life in Scandal” that he declared bankruptcy in 2005 after racking up credit card debt as a student at NYU.
Shortly afterward, Lavandeira reinvented himself as the acerbic celebrity blogger. In 2019, he uploaded an explainer video about saving money to avoid bankruptcy.