Celebrities can easily amass large fortunes from box office sales, record sales, and advertising contracts. However, when they have huge fortunes, not all celebs are very responsible with their money. We hear about bankruptcy stories of today’s celebrities, but these 1970s wealthiest celebrities had it all until it came crashing down around them. Some have even had to declare bankruptcy to stop negative financial situations from spiraling out of control.
Here are the stories of popular celebrities who declared personal bankruptcy, including what caused them to have to file for bankruptcy and what happened to each of them after. Some of these celebs have been able to redefine their careers and thrive. Do you think these 1970s wealthiest celebrities were irresponsible? Be sure to SHARE these stories as a cautionary tale that fame and fortune can also bring their own set of problems.
David Cassidy is best known as the teen idol of the extremely successful TV show called The Partridge Family. He filed for bankruptcy in 2015 after owing millions of dollars to different creditors. In addition to Cassidy’s 2010 DUI, he faced other challenges after continuing to live a lavish lifestyle well after his royalty checks shrank and could no longer support it. Cassidy wasn’t able to turn his life around, as he died of liver failure in 2017.
Michael Jackson is one of the most famous people in the world, even after his death. He amassed a massive fortune during his time as the “King of Pop.” Unfortunately, lavish spending and multiple lawsuits diminished his fortune. Prudent investments, like purchasing the Beatle’s catalog, couldn’t save him from bankruptcy either. His untimely death in 2009 came before he was forced to file for bankruptcy, but his estate is now in a protracted legal battle with creditors and the IRS over debts and unpaid taxes that would have forced him into bankruptcy.
Smokey and the Bandit star Burt Reynolds was at the top of the world in the 70s thanks to several iconic roles including his part in The Longest Yard. In his prime, he made more than $10 million per year. However, Reynolds spent more than he made. Compounded by his expensive divorce from his wife Loni Anderson, Reynolds couldn’t rein in his spending. Although he managed to hold onto properties that kept him above water for a while, he eventually declared bankruptcy in 1996. Reynolds died in 2018 still struggling with money.
Sherman Hemsley was an actor best known for his role as George Jefferson in the TV show The Jeffersons. While his character might have been moving all up to the top, Hemsley was not. He filed for bankruptcy protection in 1999 because of back taxes and not being able to pay a million dollar loan. He eventually withdrew his suit. He died in 2012 and there have been some court battles over his estate.
Willie Nelson is synonymous with country and country-rock music. However, Nelson racked up more than $16 million in tax debt. In the late 1980s, the IRS began proceedings to try and recoup those owed taxes, including raiding his house and seizing his property. In the end, Nelson decided to file for bankruptcy before he lost everything. Nelson turned it all around by striking a deal with the IRS to share profits on a new album and by suing his former tax attorneys.
Some people describe Janice Dickinson as the first supermodel. She was one of the “It” girls of the 1970s and 1980s. Younger audiences might recognize Dickinson as one of the judges on American’s Next Top Model. She filed for bankruptcy after being in debt to the tune of about a million dollars. Many of the debts came from dermatologists and in a large amount of unpaid taxes to the IRS. Since then, she has appeared in the British TV show Celebrity Big Brother.
Elton John is one of the most successful and longest-running performers in the U.S. and U.K. in history. With such an impressive career, he raked in millions. He is yet another case of out-of-control spending. John filed for bankruptcy in 2002. This was after living a luxury lifestyle for decades, including two years of reported out-of-control spending between 2000-2001. He spent over $1 million per month for almost two years, which sank his fortune. Fortunately, he picked himself up and kept going, and has since rebuilt much of his fortune by returning to the stage.
There are few stars as well-known as Gary Busey, who starred in classics like Gunsmoke. Busey made a lot of money during his career but lost most of it due to bad money management. Although he tried investing and finding other ways of managing his money, Busey ultimately overspent and made many bad choices that cut his fortune down significantly. In 2012, he filed for bankruptcy. Busey continues to act, but also added writing to his list of accomplishments with a book called Buseyisms: Gary Busey’s Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth in 2018.