Special Report

14 Billionaires Who Went Broke

Source: Chris Hondros / Getty Images News via Getty Images

11. Bernie Ebbers

WorldCom appeared to be a thriving telecom company in the late 1990s, and the company’s CEO, Bernie Ebbers, was worth as much as $1.4 billion — but much of that success had been a sham. Billions in WorldCom’s profits were improperly recorded for the wrong year, and billions in expenses were classified as investments, grossly inflating the company’s profits. All in all, WorldCom’s books were off by $11 billion. The company is now defunct, and Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was released in late 2019 after his lawyers said his health was in decline. Ebbers died in February 2020.

Source: celebrityabc / Flickr

12. Jocelyn Wildenstein

Jocelyn Wildenstein first became a billionaire after receiving an estimated $2.5 billion in a 1999 divorce settlement from her art dealer husband. Wildenstein has been frequently featured in tabloids for her legendary spending habits and her extensive cosmetic surgeries that have netted her the nickname “Catwoman.” She told reporters her net worth dropped after several pieces of art in her trust were found to be forged or worth much less than expected. She has also faced several lawsuits and foreclosures. In 2018, Wildenstein filed for bankruptcy, claiming that she had zero dollars in her bank account.

Source: Courtesy of Duty Free Shoppers via dfs.com

13. Chuck Feeney

Chuck Feeney is unique on this list of billionaires who went broke because his substantial net worth loss was intentional. Feeney founded Duty Free Shoppers, the airport retailer, then launched private equity firm General Atlantic, accumulating a net worth of around $8 billion. He decided to give virtually all his money away to various domestic and international charities and philanthropic efforts over his last 40 years or so. In September 2020, Feeney closed down his philanthropy company, having given away his wealth, minus retirement savings for him and his wife.

Source: Courtesy of Archegos Capital Management

14. Bill Hwang

It appears that Bill Hwang became one of the latest billionaires to lose it all in March 2021, when his overleveraged market bets came crashing down. Hwang’s private investment firm, Archegos Capital Management, reportedly used loans to bet on the stock prices of several media companies, including ViacomCBS and Discovery Inc., which had inflated their perceived value 2021, before declining recently. When the brokers issued margin calls, Archegos defaulted and was forced to liquidate many of its positions, further driving these stock prices down. Brokers like Credit Suisse and Nomura reportedly expect billions of dollars in losses.

It has been difficult to ascertain the extent of the losses Hwang, who pled guilty to insider trading charges in 2012, incurred. Former Goldman Sachs partner Mike Novogratz told Bloomberg it amounts to “one of the single greatest losses of personal wealth in history.” Before these margin calls, some estimates placed Hwang’s personal wealth at around $10 billion and the value of the firm’s positions at around $100 billion.