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10 Billionaires that Went From Riches to Rags

riches to rags

As time passes, things change. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are, your condition will eventually change. We’ve seen the less fortunate working hard and changing their financial status, and we’ve also seen business tycoons ruining their lives with their ill-informed decisions. This article focuses on 10 billionaires who went from riches to rags.  

1. Jocelyn Wildenstein

Jocelyn Wildenstein, also known as “Catwoman,” spent $1 million on lavish purchases and $5,000 phone bills every month. In May 2018, the socialite filed for bankruptcy, claiming that she had $0 in her bank account.

Jocelyn Wildenstein
Jocelyn Wildenstein. Image credits: s_bukley/Shutterstock.com

Jocelyn Wildenstein, nicknamed “Catwoman” since she was obsessed with plastic surgery to get feline facial features, has sought bankruptcy protection under the Chapter 11 bankruptcy code, claiming that the balance on her Citibank account is $0.

The filing states that the 77-year-old Manhattanite receives no more than $900 a month from Social Security. She claims that some of her expenses are now paid for by her friends and family. 

Although Jocelyn Wildenstein is on a tight budget, she owns some expensive properties. She was once called the “Bride of Wildenstein” for owning three adjoining apartments on floor 51 of the Trump World Tower that were together worth $11.75 million.

There are other underwater assets, such as a $38,000 debt that was owed to Chase Auto Finance for a 2006 Bentley, worth $35,000 now. So, she has a total of $16.4 million in assets and $6.4 million in liabilities. (1, 2)

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2. Bernie Madoff

Bernard “Bernie” Madoff developed the largest Ponzi scheme in history, defrauding thousands of investors for billions of dollars over a period of at least 17 years. He was sentenced to federal prison for a maximum of 150 years in 2009. 

Bernie Madoff
Bernie Madoff. Image credits: Theguardian.com

Since Madoff was a well-reputed financier; several investors trusted him with their money and handed him their savings. He falsely promised consistent profits in return. Madoff’s investors lost approximately $65 billion, and his fraud went undetected for decades.

In December 2008, he was arrested and accused of 11 counts of fraud, perjury, theft, and money laundering. The court sentenced Madoff to 150 years in prison for his pyramid scheme that was so extensive that even today, only a small number of his victims have recovered all their losses.

As of 2020, approximately $3.2 billion has been returned to Madoff’s victims by the US Department of Justice. 

Another reason Madoff remained unnoticed for so long is due to his financial background and involvement. In 1960, he launched his own market-maker firm and played a leading role in launching the NASDAQ stock market.

In addition, he served on the board of the National Association of Securities Dealers and provided recommendations to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Therefore, people easily believed that what he was doing was right.

However, things began to worsen when his investors demanded a total payout of $7 billion, and he only had $200 to $300 million to give. (Source) 

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3. Elizabeth Holmes

Elizabeth Holmes once held a net worth of $5 billion and was a prominent Silicon Valley figure. She had a blood-testing company, Theranos, valued at $9 billion. Later, it was revealed that Theranos’ blood tests were highly inaccurate. In June 2018, she was charged with wire fraud and has a current net worth of $0.

Elizabeth Holmes
Elizabeth Holmes. Image credits: Debby Wong/Shutterstock.com

According to Forbes, Elizabeth Holmes had a net worth of $4.5 billion, making her the richest self-made woman. Today Forbes lowers its estimate of her net worth to zero.

Approximately 50% of Holmes’ wealth was derived from Theranos, the blood-testing company she developed in 2003 to revolutionize diagnostic tests. Shares of Theranos are not traded on any stock market; they were purchased by investors in 2014 at a price that implied a $9 billion valuation for the company.

Since then, Theranos has been accused of running inaccurate tests and has been under investigation by a variety of federal agencies. Moreover, Forbes has released a new, lower estimate of Theranos’ value as a result of new information showing Theranos’ annual revenue is below $100 million.

Theranos is more realistically valued at $800 million than $9 billion, based on Forbes‘ interviews with venture capitalists, industry experts, and analysts. According to VC Experts, a venture capital research firm, this credit is for the company’s intellectual property and the $724 million that it raised.

The investment also represents a generous multiple of Theranos’ revenue, according to an individual with knowledge about Theranos’ finances. Due to the low value of Holmes’ stake, the company is practically worthless. (Source)

4. Björgólfur Gudmundsson

Gudmundsson was once Iceland’s second-richest person, with a major stake in a bank called Landsbanki. His bank collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis and was purchased by the Icelandic government. He then filed bankruptcy, and Forbes reduced his net worth from $1.2 billion to $0. 

Björgólfur Gudmundsson
Björgólfur Gudmundsson. Image credits: VILHELM/Visir.is

The Icelandic former billionaire has gone through so much throughout his career as a brewers shipping executive, embezzler, and soccer team owner.

He started facing troubles in the mid-80s when his company, Hafskip, failed and he was sentenced to a year of imprisonment for embezzlement. After that, he went to Russia to regain his fortune. He and his son started operating a soft drink company. They turned it into a brewery and flourished once again. 

However,  Gudmundsson had a net worth of $1.2 billion in March 2008, but his company Landsbanki failed just after seven months. This ruined his billionaire status and was sunk to zero. By December, his net worth was reduced to $0. His company Hansa was in voluntary liquidation, and his football club was for sale.  

In August 2009, he filed for bankruptcy, stating that he owed more than $500 million. Center for Economic Studies & Ifo Institute reported that this was the largest personal bankruptcy in history. During the hearing, he claimed he had an “almost complete lack of income.” (Source)

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5. Eike Batista

In 2012, Brazilian businessman Eike Batista was the seventh-richest person in the world and the most wealthy person in Brazil. He had a net worth of $35 billion. In 2014, he lost all his fortune and owed a net $1.2 billion to creditors. 

Eike Batista
Eike Batista. Image credits: Antonio Scorza/Shutterstock.com

Eike Batista made a fortune from his father’s mining commodities which made him a multimillionaire income at the age of 23. Later, he launched his gold mining company which led to the creation of EBX Group.

In 2000, he had a net worth of $20 billion by operating eight gold mines in Canada and Brazil and a silver mine in Chile. He went on to create five more operating companies: MPX in energy, MMX, in mining, LLX in logistics, OGX in petroleum, and OSX for the offshore industry. All his companies flourished, making his net worth ballooned to $35 billion in 2012.    

Among his five companies, the oil and gas business was his crown jewel. However, the oil production from the areas they had was much less than anticipated. This destroyed investor confidence and made it difficult for the company to pay its debts while financing new developments.

In 2013, the company was $5.1 billion in debt and filed for bankruptcy protection. Things became worse when Batista unloaded some of his stock before OGX went bankrupt to make a quick profit. Now he faces charges of insider trading for using confidential information for that profit.

Brazil has seized all of Batista’s assets and making him face the punishment of up to 13 years behind bars. Almost all of his business failed and four of his companies went bankrupt. (1, 2)  

Also read: 10 Celebrities Who Were Fired From Their Ordinary Job

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