Special Report

14 Billionaires Who Went Broke

Source: Max Morse, TechCrunch / Wikimedia Commons

1. Elizabeth Holmes

Elizabeth Holmes was once on the cover of Forbes for founding a revolutionary startup worth an estimated $9 billion. Now, she is facing fraud charges. Holmes claimed her company, Theranos, was developing a revolutionary blood test that could test for hundreds of diseases and conditions with just a few drops of blood. In reality, the company was nowhere close to delivering this technology. Holmes now faces up to 20 years in prison on nine counts of wire fraud and two conspiracy counts related to defrauding investors, doctors, and patients. Her trial is slated to begin in March 2021.

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2. Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff will go down as one of the most infamous scammers in history. Madoff ran the largest Ponzi scheme of all time, swindling an estimated $17.5 billion from investors. Trustees have reportedly recovered $13 billion of the stolen money. Madoff is currently serving a 150-year federal prison sentence. In early 2020, he asked for a compassionate release, claiming he had less than two years to live due to kidney failure. His request was denied.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

3. Allen Stanford

Though Allen Stanford is not as well known as Bernie Madoff, he gained and lost his fortune the same way — a Ponzi scheme. He defrauded about 18,000 people, many of them retirees, out of their savings. His scheme reportedly took in over $7 billion. After his scheme was uncovered, Stanford’s net worth dropped to zero. He was sentenced to 110 years in prison for his role in the scheme. Unlike with Madoff, however, few of Stanford’s victims have recovered their money.

Source: Lula Marques/Agência PT / Wikimedia Commons

4. Eike Batista

Once the world’s seventh richest person, oil billionaire Eike Batista was the face of Brazil’s booming economy in 2012. Bastista’s business affairs began to unravel when his oil company, OGX, could not keep up with promised production, and investors pulled their money. After his fortunes further declined when Brazil’s economy went into a tailspin, Batista filed for bankruptcy.

Investigators eventually discovered that Batista was involved in a kickback scandal that took down many of Brazil’s most prominent politicians, and he was charged with money laundering. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison for corruption and money laundering and received an additional eight year sentence in 2019 for market manipulation.

Source: Photo by Independent News And Media / Getty Images

5. Sean Quinn

Sean Quinn was once Ireland’s richest man, with an estimated net worth of over 3 billion euro. He grew his family quarry and diversified into different businesses like manufacturing, real estate, power plants, and more. Quinn lost control of his business empire after a bad investment in the Anglo Irish Bank. He tried to salvage the bank’s fortune by taking money out of his insurance company, but bank shares were in freefall. The bank had to be bailed out by taxpayers, and the government assumed control. In 2011, Quinn claimed that his assets were worth less than £50,000 and filed for bankruptcy.