Everybody loves a Cinderella story–but what happens when things go the other way? For most of us, it might seem impossible to blow through millions of dollars, but these celebrities discovered that losing everything is all too easy. From reckless spending to shocking tax bills, this is the dark side of fame. But don’t feel too bad for them; with just a few exceptions, these celebrities still have more than enough money to get by.
Nicolas Cage is legendary for his unhinged performances and his equally wild spending. The Oscar-winning actor wasted $150 million on lavish real estate, rare reptiles, and decor that would have made more sense in a natural history museum than a private home.
Cage famously purchased a dinosaur skull for almost $300,000 in 2007, but it turned out to have been stolen from Mongolia, and he was forced to give it back. He bought two islands, two castles, four yachts, a collection of shrunken heads, and a notorious haunted house in New Orleans. He also paid big bucks for a copy of the first Superman comic and built his own pyramid-shaped mausoleum in a New Orleans cemetery. In addition, he owed the IRS $13 million in back taxes.
Mike Tyson used to be the biggest name in boxing. But legal troubles and outrageous spending blew through his $400 million fortune. While you can kind of understand splashing out cash on luxury cars, mansions, and jewelry, Tyson had an unusual interest that cost more per year than most people earn in a decade.
After being released from prison in 1995, Tyson went back to his old habits–which included buying exotic animals to roam his estates. Tyson was particularly fond of white tigers and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the animals and a trainer to manage them. After a woman broke into his compound and was mauled by one of his pet Bengals, Tyson admitted that he was wrong to have kept the three big cats in his home.
With Tyson’s fame on the decline–and several expensive divorces under his belt–the former boxing star eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2007.
Twenty years ago, Chris Tucker was one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood. He made over $20 million each for the Rush Hour movies with Jackie Chan! Now, he owes a massive tax bill to the IRS. We’re talking millions.
According to Radar Online, Tucker was hit with a brand new tax lien for over $250,000 in unpaid taxes just this year. That would be bad news for most people, but it was just a drop in the bucket compared to the $9.2 million he already owed. He’s been struggling to pay his bills for over a decade when he lost his home in Florida to foreclosure.
Part of the problem seems to be that Tucker kept spending like it was 2001 even after he was no longer in demand for blockbuster movies. After Rush Hour 3, he didn’t work in Hollywood again for five years. Unless the long-rumored Rush Hour 4 finally arrives, maybe Tucker should get used to clipping coupons.
R&B star Toni Braxton filed for bankruptcy not once but twice during her career. Even though the “Un-Break my Heart” hitmaker is one of the best-selling artists of all time, she struggled to keep money in the bank. What happened? Was she just a reckless over-spender?
Braxton filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy for the first time in 1998. Fans thought she should have still been riding high on the sales of her hit records, which were estimated to have brought in over $170 million. However, it turned out that she was seeing only a fraction of that money. The rest was going to LaFace/Artista Records thanks to one of the worst, most restrictive recording contracts in the business.
In 2010, Braxton would end up filing for bankruptcy a second time. Although she was in the middle of a career renaissance thanks to a lucrative Las Vegas residency and a run on Broadway in Aida, all was not well behind the scenes. Her health was failing, and after collapsing during a performance, she was diagnosed with lupus and heart disease. Braxton was forced to cancel her contracts in Vegas, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees that she could not afford to pay.
It’s ironic that a rapper who named himself after money is flat broke. 50 Cent was one of the richest men in hip-hop, with a net worth of over $155 million. He purchased a mansion from Mike Tyson after his first album became a massive hit. Unfortunately, he didn’t learn any financial lessons from Tyson’s failures. He would file for bankruptcy in 2015, due in part to a failed clothing line.
50 Cent had hoped to expand his brand into fashion with G-Unit Clothing. While it was a success for a few years, he parted ways with his business partner and soon found that managing a fashion line was harder than it looked. He had overextended himself with the mansion he purchased from Tyson and couldn’t afford the upkeep and utilities as his record sales went down the drain. He would sell the mansion for just $2.9 million in 2019–a loss of an estimated $7 million given what he paid for the property and the extensive upgrades.
Several lawsuits later–and a few embarrassing moments on social media when he bragged about money he simply didn’t have–50 Cent is now trying to regroup. Last year, he told The Guardian, “When there are setbacks, there will be get-backs.”
Former action hero Wesley Snipes is still trying to battle the IRS–even though he keeps losing. Snipes owed $23.5 million to Uncle Sam in unpaid taxes and tried for years to sue the IRS instead of paying up. Eventually, he was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to three years in prison. He served his time from 2010 to 2013, and although he has managed to score a few roles since then, his career is unlikely to fully recover.
Since his release from prison, Snipes has taken responsibility for his actions. The fortune he made from starring in movies like Blade might be gone, but he claims to have gained something more valuable than money from his experience. “The biggest thing I got from it was learning the value of time and how we often squander it … I understand that very clearly now, having been away from my family and loved ones two and a half years,” he told Simon Hattenstone of The Guardian.
Kim Basinger isn’t a name you hear that often anymore–and that’s a shame. The talented and beautiful actress was a major star in the 80s and 90s, and she was one half of a major Hollywood power couple with husband Alec Baldwin. Although she never made hip-hop or boxing money, Basinger blew through $20 million with one very ill-advised purchase.
In 1989, Basinger bought a town. While you could perhaps understand a very wealthy person purchasing a private island, Basinger paid $20 million for the town of Braselton, Georgia. She had hoped to turn it into a film and music production mecca, but the idea never panned out.
The same year she finally sold her town at a massive loss, she was also sued for breach of contract after dropping out of the bizarre sexual thriller Boxing Helena. The film was a massive flop and did no favors for her replacement, Sherilyn Fenn, and costar Julian Sands. But the fallout was even worse for Basinger, who was forced to pay $7.4 million in damages to the producers. Basinger filed for bankruptcy, and even though she would go on to win an Oscar for L.A. Confidential a few years later, her career has been overshadowed by her financial woes.
No list of celebrities who lost it all would be complete without MC Hammer. He was one of the biggest music stars of the early 90s thanks to hits like “U Can’t Touch This” and “2 Legit 2 Quit.” But fame went to his head, and his catastrophic overspending made Hammer into a cautionary tale.
He spent an estimated $70 million in the span of a few years on cars, racehorses, helicopters, and a private jet. Although popular legend holds that he bought a gold toilet for his California mansion, it was actually a hot tub. The property also boasted statues of himself and a swimming pool shaped like his trademark baggy pants. It seemed that Hammer believed his own hype, but in 1996, he would file for bankruptcy.
Although he squandered a fortune in jew a few short years, Hammer now claims that he has no regrets. In an interview shared on Oprah’s website, he said:
“Some people ask me sometimes, would I go back and change things?” he says. “They are flabbergasted by my answer. My real, true answer is I wouldn’t change one thing. I really believe in the butterfly effect. Meaning that if I change one thing, everything else changes. I lose the kids I have now. I lose the relationships I have now. I lose the peace I have now. So I’m very happy with my decision.”