Special Report

Billionaires That Have Gone Broke

Source: Wikimedia Commons

6. Björgólfur Gudmundsson

In 2008, Björgólfur Gudmundsson was the chairman and primary owner of the second largest bank in Iceland. As the 2008 financial crisis took its toll on banking systems worldwide, the banks collapsed and was taken over by the Icelandic government, wiping out all of Gudmundsson’s fortune. He declared bankruptcy, admitting he was hundreds of millions of pounds in debt. Gudmundsson had to sell London’s West Ham United, the Premier League soccer team he owned.

7. Aubrey McClendon

Aubrey McClendon was reportedly worth $1.2 billion as the co-founder of major oil and gas company Chesapeake Energy. He may not, however, have earned his fortune honestly. In 2013, he was indicted on federal charges of unfairly manipulating bids for drilling rights. The next day, McClendon died in a car accident, which some have speculated was a suicide. Though McClendon was personally wealthy at the time of his death, many people and companies that he worked with are still dealing with the fallout of his dealings. Private equity firm EMG reportedly stands to lose billions on the deals it did with McClendon.

Source: Franciscojuanlago / Wikimedia Commons

8. Vijay Mallya

The owner of India’s Kingfisher Airlines who once had a net worth estimated at $1.5 billion, Vijay Mallya accumulated massive amounts of debt to try to support the business. He was accused of money laundering and fraud, to the tune of $1.3 billion. Pursued by creditors, Mallya fled India for the U.K., where, as of 2019, he is in a prolonged court battle against a 2018 ruling that he should be extradited to India.

Source: Adolf Merckle

9. Adolf Merckle

Adolf Merckle grew his small family business in Germany into a vast corporate empire with more than 100 companies and 100,000 employees. In the process, his net worth grew to over $9 billion. But his investment company fell billions of euros into debt, and Merckle personally lost hundreds of millions of euros shorting Volkswagen shares. That, along with a worldwide recession in 2008, forced Merckle to consider bankruptcy. The financial strain seems to have taken its toll on Merckle, and he took his own life in 2009.

Source: Lars Niki / Getty Images

10. Patricia Kluge

In the 1980s, Heiress and socialite Patricia Kluge was married to the richest man in America — media mogul John Kluge. They divorced in 1990, and Patricia’s settlement included Albemarle, a Virginia estate and winery. She founded Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard and saw success. She also developed a luxury subdivision near Albemarle. When the housing crisis hit, however, everything came to a halt. The houses were unfilled, and Kluge was forced to sell the estate for a fraction of the asking price to service her debts.