It’s not all limousines and caviar: Even the rich and famous occasionally go bust, and what used to be a life of easy money quickly turns into IRS audits and nasty repossessions—not to mention tabloids filled with celebrity bankruptcy stories.
Here are 10 celebrities who have, at one time another, found cobwebs in their bank vaults.
Willie Nelson—In 1990, the singer/songwriter found himself broke and owing $16 million to the IRS. His possessions were auctioned (and bought by a fan, who returned them), and he recorded the album The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories? to raise funds.
MC Hammer—He may have been making $33 million a year when “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em” was on the charts, but his fall was almost as fast as his rise. Hammer filed for bankruptcy in 1996 with $10 million in debt and only $1 million in assets.
Burt Reynolds—One of Hollywood’s biggest box office draws in the ’70s, Reynolds ended up broke due to the combination of a waning movie career in the ’80s and bad investments in the restaurant business.
Donald Trump—He may be famous for his wealth and business acumen, but The Donald’s companies have been bankrupt, not once, but a total of four times. Forbes estimates his current worth at $2.7 billion.
Mike Tyson—The former heavyweight champion is now a lightweight in the wallet, due largely to squandering his millions on luxury items like a $173,000 diamond necklace. He filed for Chapter 11 with $23 million in debt.
Michael Jackson—When the King of Pop died, he was deep in debt and hadn’t been living at his famous Neverland Ranch home in years. In fact, foreclosure proceedings had already begun. His debts were rumored to amount to $500 million.
Kim Basinger—She was once rich enough to pay $20 million for the town of Braselton, Georgia, but after losing a multimillion dollar lawsuit to the studio for backing out of Boxing Helena, she found herself bankrupt and had to sell the town.
Wayne Newton—The crooner found a unique way of recovering from his bankruptcy in 1992. He signed a contract to perform in Vegas 40 weeks out of the year for a salary of $25 million, now literally singing for his supper.
Gary Coleman—The former child star was once the highest-paid kid in the biz, but medical bills and possible shenanigans (he accused his parents of stealing $1 million from him) left him broke in 1999.
Debbie Reynolds—The much-loved actress has a bad hotel investment to blame for her financial woes. Her Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas was a business failure, leaving her bankrupt in 1997. She auctioned off most of her movie memorabilia collection in June 2011 to get back on her financial feet.
It’s pretty clear that as long as money lures fame, or fame lures money, celebrity bankruptcy stories will keep emptying wallets and filling tabloids.