Throughout history, the advance in technology and production has also come up with the concentration of wealth among the super rich in society. However just as empires rise so do they fall, and the same can be said about people. Although athletes and celebrities are the most well documented cases of squandered wealth, they are not alone. Many prominent people across various industries have also fell victim to greed, carelessness, and materialism. These are the people who amassed a fortune only to end up in rags.
10. Mark Twain
Twain lost nearly 10 million dollars before filing for bankruptcy at the behest of financier Henry Huttleston Rogers.
The great American author, whose birth name was Samuel Clemens, penned the great works: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Fin, and Pudd’n Head Wilson. Although Twain was a voice for the working class and the disadvantaged, Clemens lived a life of affluence and extravagance. He seemed to believe that his writing prowess extended to business, but unfortunately Clemens was a horrible businessman. Most of his wealth was squandered on investments and projects that proved fruitless.
His failed business ventures included: a publishing company and a Paige typesetting machine that lost him nearly $8 million in inflated adjusted terms. Ironically, Clemens was offered the opportunity to invest in the telephone, but he declined thinking that it wasn’t realistic for everyday people to have one in their homes. At the end of his life, Twain had to go on a speaking tour to pay off his significant debts.
9. Horace A.W Tabor
In the 19th century, Tabor amassed and lost more than three million dollars.
Known as the “Bonanza King of Leadville”, Tabor was an American prospector, businessman, and Republican politician in the late 19th century. His wealth originated from the Colorado Silver Boom; Tabor owned one-third of a mine that had discovered huge amounts of silver. Tabor used his new capital to invest in another mine that was even more profitable. Tabor soon was a juggernaut establishing newspapers, a bank, and an Opera House. As it usually does, his wealth led to political success and in 1878, Tabor was elected Lieutenant Governor of Colorado.
However, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act decimated Tabor’s fortune and his far-flung holdings were sold off. When he became ill with appendicitis in 1899, Tabor’s requested his wife, Baby Doe, to maintain his mine. According to legend, the wife of the “Bonanza King” lived in the tool shed of the mine for thirty years and died in that shed.
8. Daniel Drew
Drew had a personal fortune worth up to 13 million but died penniless, reliant on his son.
One of the most dramatic cases of a rise and fall on our list goes to Daniel Drew. Author and financier, Henry Clews, summed up his life with the following, “Of all the great operators of Wall Street … Daniel Drew furnishes the most remarkable instance of immense and long-continued success, followed by utter failure and hopeless bankruptcy.” Drew made and lost his fortune in the 19th century; it began with his entrance into the steamboat business. His success led him to start his own brokerage firm in 1844, where he began to speculate on stocks. In 1857, Drew became a member of the board of directors of the Erie Railroad and used his position to manipulate the railroad stock price; he colluded with Cornelius Vanderbilt to prop up company’s finances.
However, Vanderbilt would soon turn to his antagonist as Drew attempted to sell a company’s stock short and Vanderbilt and his associates bought every available share, causing stock to spike up. After a small victory over Vanderbilt, Drew was betrayed by his fellow colluders as he attempted to manipulate the stock price of another railroad company. By 1876, Daniel Drew filed for bankruptcy and died dependent on his son.
7. Sean Quinn
Astonishingly, Quinn went from a net worth of 4.7 billion euros to nearly 3.5 billion in debt.
One of our more recent cases of riches to rags goes to Sean Quinn. He also leads our list with the quickest turn in fortunes, going from the richest man in Ireland in 2008 to filing for bankruptcy in 2011. In 2008, Quinn’s net worth was estimated to be £3.73 billion; he accumulated his wealth through several avenues beginning with Quinn Cement. Like many others on this list, he used his capital to enter other industries and founded Quinn Group which played a significant role in Ireland’s hospitality sector. However, Quinn soon made an investment that would lead him to bankruptcy.
With more and more capital, Quinn increased his family’s stake in the Anglo Irish bank in 2008. As a result of the 2008 financial crisis and the losses sustained under Quinn Insurance, Sean Quinn soon filed for bankruptcy reporting debts of of €194m. To make matters worse, the Quinn family was sued on multiple fronts for misusing their stake in the Anglo Irish bank to secure loans on properties. Eventually Sean Quinn was sentenced to prison for a sentence of nine months.
6. Jack Whittaker
Whittaker lost all of his lottery winnings: 113 million dollars.
One of the saddest cases in our list goes to Jack Whittaker – it an example that demonstrates the fickle nature of luck and chance and how it can sometimes lead to disaster. Whittaker won the largest lottery payout in West Virginia – an unprecedented $314 million. After taxes, Whitaker took a $113 million onetime payment. Before winning the lottery, Whittaker was the President of Diversified Enterprises Construction, and already had a net worth of upwards of 16 million dollars. After winning the lottery, a series of incidents and tragedies would befall Whittaker – not all of his own doing.
In 2003, less than a year after Whittaker won the lottery, thieves broke into his car while it was parked at a strip club and stole $545,000 in cash that Whittaker had in a suitcase. Why he would have so much cash on hand is beyond us. Personal tragedy would hit Whittaker the hardest as his granddaughter and her boyfriend were both found death with cocaine and methadone in their systems. Whittaker claims now to be broke as he has failed to make payments to a woman who successfully sued him while also bouncing checks at Casinos.
5. Mark Brunell
A series of poor investments saw Brunell lose more than 50 million dollars.
Although we suggested that our list would be comprised of non-athletes this particular case has been under-reported and also features a man that played a premier position in the National Football League. Mark Brunell played quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins, making the Pro Bowl in three times. He earned more than $50 million during his NFL career but was forced to declare chapter 11 bankruptcy.
In his declaration of assets, Brunell stated he owed more than $5 million of loan guarantee to JWB Owner LLC and more than $4 million in personal loan guarantees to his defunct Champion LLC business. Most of Brunell’s investments were in ill-timed real estate acquisitions and loans. However, all is not bad for the Brunell’s by filing for chapter 11, he’ll be able to craft a more manageable plan to repay his creditors.
4. Rick Burton
The developer filed for bankruptcy protection citing more than 300 million in debts.
Filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a much more ominous endeavor and that is exactly what Rick Burton, the Nevada developer declared in 2012. Things were much different in 2008 when Burton outbid major players in Vegas for a project to build a private air terminal at McCarran International Airport. However, the project failed and Burton’s company was put under significant pressure by the weight of dozens of lawsuits from unpaid creditors.
According to documents, Burton owed more than 310 million and had only 6,000 dollars in assets at time of filing. In addition, Burton’s attorneys listed nearly 100 creditors owed a few hundred dollars and $135 million owed to the state of Arizona for a land purchase. Burton also owes the IRS more than $6 million. The classic lesson here is don’t bite off more than you can chew.
3. Clint Murchison, Jr.
Murchison, Jr. squandered his inheritance of nearly 200 million dollars and was forced to sell assets to repay debts of 500 million.
It takes an extraordinary person to completely squander a fortune that they did not create, but that’s exactly what Clint Murchison, Jr. managed to do. The offspring of Clint Murchison, Sr., who was a notorious oil baron, had amassed a fortune of half a billion dollars.
Junior did not have the business acumen of his father with his only accomplishment being the establishment of the Dallas Cowboys. However, even this investment, was not made with great foresight as he sold the team too soon. The fortune would be squandered with a series of bad investments along with a dip in the real estate market that him into bankruptcy in 1985, with his assets being sold off to satisfy over $500 million in debt.
2. T. Cullen Davis
Davis filed for bankruptcy after inheriting a fortune of 250 million dollars.
One of the richest men on our list, T. Cullen Davis, also shares the distinction of losing it all. Once a billionaire, Texas oil heir T. Cullen Davis inherited his fortune and yet managed to lose it all. What makes Davis’s case so dark and interesting is that he became the richest person to ever stand trial for murder.
Cullen Davis inherited tons of oil rich land from his family, but lost it due to mismanagement and a recession. Davis was also known for having a bad temper and in 1976 when his wife Priscilla Childers filed for divorce, and was living with a boyfriend; a gunman broke into their house and shot them both. In addition, Childers’s 12 year old daughter was killed, but Davis’s ex-wife managed to survive. Priscilla Childers alleged that it was Davis who had shot her and that his only disguise was a wig. In a dark twist, forensic investigators found that Childers’s daughter was forced into the basement and shot while she was on her knees. A jury would later find Davis not guilty. Nonetheless, he filed for personal bankruptcy in 1986 with debts of over $230 million.
1. Jesse Livermore
Livermore’s stock speculation saw him lose 100 million dollars.
One of the most riveting stories of rags to riches then riches to rags twice over goes to Jesse Livermore, known as the “Boy Plunger.” He amassed and lost his fortune in the early 20th century. Livermore was viewed as a genius for his ability to predict when to short sell a stock. In the crash of 1907, he made nearly $3 million which adjusted to inflation would be approximately a billion dollars in 2015. However, just as quickly as the money came Livermore soon lost it.
Taking the advice of another trader, he lost nearly 90% of his fortune on a cotton trade and proceeded to file for bankruptcy in the following years. However, Livermore was a resilient fellow and managed to regain his fortune during the bull market of World War I. Not only did he regain his lost capital but he added to it during the 1929 crash. While the nation was in depression, Livermore had amassed a fortune of $100 million as a result of the crash. He proceeded to buy mansions around the world full of servants and housekeepers. Somehow Livermore managed to lose his fortune, in a manner that still is unclear to historians of the time. Sadly, Livermore committed suicide in 1940.