Infographic Reveals Shocking Famous Bankruptcies from the 1600s Thru 2015

Famous bankruptcies

Famous bankruptcies through history are fascinating

Image Source: Flickr user Tim Evanson

We often write here about celebrity bankruptcies, but not because we want to sensationalize the financial problems of famous people. Instead, we look for the lessons that everyone can learn from these high profile devastating debt profiles. While these once rich and still famous faces may have gone from rags to riches and back to rags, they often have more in common with most of us than you would imagine. It's often the same type of factors that lead to bankruptcy no matter the income or number of Twitter followers of the consumers. Divorce, unemployment, and other major life events are the most common drivers of bankruptcy for the average consumer and the celebrity consumer alike.

Check out this cool infographic on celebrity bankruptcies through the ages then scroll down to see our thoughts on some of these interesting cases.


Celebrity Bankruptcy


Rembrandt van Rijn – Many of the artists now considered the Great Masters were under-appreciated in their own time. Most had to turn to patrons and routine portrait work to support their costs of living while pursuing their passion. Like many that turn to bankruptcy, Rembrandt suffereda catastrophic major life event. His wife died, and this impacted his ability to work and also increased his costs of living as he had to hire help to care for his son. When he couldn't pay his nanny, she sued him and won a significant settlement. His money situation improved after his bankruptcy when his lover took over his finances and moved them to more modest living circumstances.


Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln was one of four US presidents to go belly up. Other commanders in chief that struggled with their finances included Ulysses S Grant, Thomas Jefferson, and William McKinley. In fact, when Lincoln's general store business failed, there were no US bankruptcy regulations to protect him. Lincoln and his business partner had bought inventory on credit but then couldn't pay off the debt. Why? Two reasons that many modern bankruptcy consumers have experienced. First, the economy was flagging, and store sales were down. Second, his business partner died. Both are major events. After being sued by creditors, Lincoln spent 17 years paying back all he owed.


Henry Ford – The father of the modern assembly line who spawned an auto brand that still flourishes today filed not one, but two bankruptcies. Ford worked as an engineer for Thomas Edison at the Edison Illuminating Company when he came up with the idea for the first automobile. The first time he started an auto company, he had three politicians that invested with him who tried to call the shots. He blamed them for the company failing and filed bankruptcy. His next company also had investors but Ford in total control. Unfortunately, he was a design genius but not much of a businessman or marketer and went under a second time. The third time was the charm and Ford's company is still a success today.


Walt Disney – We all know Disney as the mega-studio that spawned Frozen and Lion King, but when Walt first tried his hand at animated movie-making, he could have used a fairy godmother to save him. In 1920, Disney started Laugh-o-Gram Studio to make animated fairy tales but then his investor went broke, and the animator had no money of his own to pay the rent or his employees. There were even rumors that his low-rent studio space had a mouse infestation including one cute little fuzzy guy that Walt nicknamed Mickey. After he had filed bankruptcy because of the investor failure, Disney scraped up enough money for a bus ticket to LA and made his dreams come true on the West Coast.

There's plenty more celebrity bankruptcies on the infographic to enjoy but, the point is, you should not feel bad if you have to turn to bankruptcy. Sometimes when your life takes unexpected turns that wreck your finances, it can be impossible to recover without an intervention.

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