A typical consumer bankruptcy filing, doesn’t cause much of a stir to the public at large. Usually no one other than your creditors ever finds out that you have filed. Unless, of course, you happen to be famous.

Here is a sampling of the newsworthy bankruptcy filings that have taken place throughout the years. (See how many names you recognize):


Rembrandt Haremenszoon Van Rijn

There’s an expression in the arts, that if you want to become rich and famous, die. Rembrandt was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1656. A significant number of prized possessions and creative works were liquidated.


Phineas Taylor Barnum

They say life is a circus and sometimes you’ve got to “jump through hoops” in order to meet your financial goals. Daring as he was, Phineas bounced his way into bankruptcy court in 1871 before his famous namesake circus ever came into play.


Mark Twain

(Samuel Langhorne Clemens) filed for bankruptcy in 1894. There’s an expression in the arts….(see “Rembrandt” above).


Henry John Heinz

Henry John Heinz had to play “catch-up” with his creditors in 1875 well before he ever introduced “ketchup.” Maybe his bankruptcy was an inspiration?


Milton Hershey

Milton Hershey had “bittersweet” beginnings and was forced to file for bankruptcy before his sumptuous milk chocolate company ever got off the ground.


Henry Ford

Henry Ford believed in the adage, “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” His first company had to file for bankruptcy possible because his first automobiles were more like lemons. The bankruptcy helped him to streamline the company (that’s the “lemonade” component) which led to ultimate success.


Mickey Rooney

The IRS can be a very tough audience, especially if it’s going to cost you close to 2 million dollars to keep them entertained. Mick filed for bankruptcy in 1962.


Johnny Unitas

This famous football quarterback got sacked by creditors, and ultimately touched down in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case.


Burt Reynolds

There’s a saying that divorce and bankruptcy sometimes go “hand-in-hand” – almost, like – well, a husband and a wife. Burt racked up more than ten million dollars in debt after divorcing blonde bombshell Loni Anderson.


Sherman Hemsley

There’s a saying that often times, “life imitates art.” No truer words could have been spoken, for veteran actor Sherman Hemsley who played “George Jefferson” in “All in the Family” (and then later in the spin-off – “The Jeffersons”). He filed for bankruptcy relief because of a substantial business loan and tax liability, but ultimately dismissed his own case.


Kim Basinger

Kim Basinger had to file for bankruptcy relief when she was sued on a contract after pulling out of the movie, “Boxing Helena.” Poor Kim had to actually liquidate (sell off) some of her realty, which included the entire town of Braselton, GA.


Wayne Newton

Land-of-Sin crooner, Wayne Newton, is no stranger to financial woes. He filed for bankruptcy relief in 1992 after racking up upwards of twenty million dollars in debt. In 2010, the singer now faces additional financial woes from his former pilot who claims he is owed about five hundred thousand dollars in back-pay, and from a defaulted business loan owed to billionaire Burton Smith to the “tune” of some three million dollars and change.


MC Hammer

The well known music and pioneer rap-star let his lifestyle get ahead of him, and ultimately “danced” his way into chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1996. Though no one would deny MC his rap abilities – apparently he was unable to simply “talk” his way out of all the lawsuits that he was inundated with at the time.


Walt Disney

Walt Disney filed for bankruptcy in 1920 after his own chief client went bankrupt. Disney was no longer able to make his business ends meet. Of course following his bankruptcy, the rest is all history. Several years later, in 1928 he created “Mickey Mouse” and, well, you know the rest of the story.


Larry King

Larry King still has more ex-wives than he does bankruptcy filings. Last check, it was only two bankruptcies, but 4? 5? 6? ex-wives??? Is that possible? He said each time that he was deep in debt (he was referring to the bankruptcy, but possibly the ex-wives as well).


Donald Trump

Donald Trump who once filed a lawsuit for defamation where he was accused of being less than a billionaire, would probably like to forget the brief time his company spent in chapter 11 bankruptcy back in 2004. His business had previously filed in 1992 as well. With that kind of a track record, he’s lucky someone didn’t turn to him and say, “your fired.”


Mike Tyson

Mike Tyson who soared to legendary status in the boxing ring, had to “throw in the towel” and file a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case in 2003, after losing the proverbial “shirt off his back.” Reasonable people might differ, but if given the choice, one would rather lose the shirt off his back, than the ear off his head, as was literally the case with Evander Holyfield back in a 1997 title bout with Tyson.


And let’s not forget these highly notable filings: Texaco, Macy’s TWA, Penn Central Station and Enron.

Most famous “ALMOST WENT BANKRUPT” goes to: New York City. The year was 1975 and Abe Beam was mayor. The City avoided bankruptcy only because the federal government extended a large federal loan, and the NYC Teacher’s Union agreed to invest $150 million dollars from their pension fund to purchase municipal bonds. Anyone remember the New York Daily News Headline from that era? “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD!”