There’s no shame in filing for bankruptcy- you’re in very high-profile company! Many historical figures and celebrities have endured financial hardships and filed for bankruptcy, only to come out of it more successful than they had ever been. At Moran Law, we like to think of bankruptcy as a chance to start fresh and build better, more stable, and financially healthy lives.
1. Abraham Lincoln
One of the most revered presidents in U.S. History, Lincoln accomplished a great deal during his presidency from 1861-1865. Lincoln is perhaps best remembered for pushing the Thirteenth Amendment through Congress, which outlawed the practice of slavery.
The self-educated lawyer, who appears on the U.S. penny and the five-dollar bill, was not a savvy businessman. He opened a general store in New Salem, Illinois, in 1832. Due to dismal sales, the store’s debt quickly mounted. Without modern day bankruptcy laws to protect him, Lincoln lost his assets (a horse and some surveying gear) to creditors and continued to pay off his debts well into the 1840’s.
In fact, several presidents have filed for bankruptcy- Thomas Jefferson filed several times. He had a penchant for throwing around lots of cash on food and wine.
2. Walt Disney
Now a hugely successful household name, Walt Disney started his first filmmaking company, Laugh-O-Gram Studios, in 1922. A bad business deal with a crooked distributor left the company without funds to cover their expenses. The company declared bankruptcy in 1923. Surviving off beans from the can, Disney was eventually able to scrap together enough cash for a one-way bus ticket from Kansas City for Hollywood.
Walt Disney debuted a new character named ‘Mickey Mouse’ in 1928.
3. Stan Lee
The name Stan Lee should ring a bell- Mr. Lee has had a hand in creating some of the most popular superhero characters of all time, including the X-Men, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk. His name is synonymous with the Marvel comic book company, which he grew from a small division of a publishing house to a large multimedia corporation.
Lee gave his superheroes a flawed humanity, a change from the ‘perfect’ superhero archetypes typically written. Lee introduced complex, multifaceted characters who had relatable personalities and problems.
His web-based comic book venture, Stan Lee Media, fell victim to the dot-com bubble of the early 2000s. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001.
Post-bankruptcy, Lee won three Hugo awards, a National Medal of Arts, and was honored with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011.
4. Marvin Gaye
Widely regarded as one of of the greatest rhythm & blues/ soul singers of all time, with 41 Top 40 (three of which reached number one!) singles, Gaye is an iconic member of Motown Studios and a pioneer of the famous Motown Sound.
In 1976, due to failing to keep up with his alimony and child support payments, Gaye’s debt had climbed to about $600,000. He promised his ex-wife, Anna Berry, the royalties from his next album to cover his debt.
Titled ‘Here, My Dear,’ the album ironically was inspired by Gaye’s feelings about the divorce. It performed dismally, leaving Gaye entrenched in debt.
In 1980, the singer relocated to London following a European tour to avoid paying some 4.5 million in back taxes. While in Europe, he began exercising, attending church, and shying away from his previous heavy drug use. He released ‘Midnight Love’, his first post-Motown album, in 1984. It contained the massively successful ‘Sexual Healing’, which won Gaye two Grammys, including ‘Best Male Vocal Performance’.
In the midst of his miracle comeback and incredible success, Gaye was tragically shot and killed by his father after a violent argument on April 1, 1984. He was posthumously inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and ranked number 18 on Rolling Stone’s ‘100 Greatest Musicians of All Time’ list.
5. MC Hammer
Stanley Kirk Burrell, perhaps better known as MC Hammer, enjoyed massive success from the single ‘U Can’t Touch This’ in 1990. He also popularized a loose-fitting trouser inspired by harem pants- you may know them as ‘hammer pants.’
MC Hammer enjoyed his success to the fullest, living a lavish lifestyle off the profit from his album Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em. MC Hammer required a forty-member entourage, who enjoyed extravagant perks. Hammer dropped 20 million dollars on an opulent mansion featuring Italian marble floors, a custom trouser shaped swimming pool, marble statutes of himself cast in the image of Michelangelo’s David, 19 thoroughbred horses, and a solid gold toilet.
He filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1996.
Today, MC Hammer is a web mogul and entrepreneur whose ventures include DanceJam.com, dedicated to videos of dance competitions, a mixed martial arts company that manages and markets fighters including Nate Marquardt and Tim F. Kennedy, and a line of clothing called Alchemist Clothing.