If you think it’s only the average Joe who files bankruptcy, think again. Some of the very rich and famous, at some point in their lives, needed to resort to bankruptcy to give themselves a fresh start. Try some of these names on for size:
P.T. Barnumfailed in several businesses and eventually filed bankruptcy, coming out on the other side to establish his circus as “The Greatest Show on Earth”. Henry Heinz, founder of the condiment company, went bankrupt, then went on to introduce a new condiment – ketchup! (The rest, as they say, is history.) Milton Hershey, founder of Hershey foods, had to declare bankruptcy before staging a big comeback. Henry Ford had two automobile company failures and a bankruptcy before creating Ford Motor Company, nearly failing again before turning the corner to profitability. Walt Disney was forced into bankruptcy when a company that owed him a lot of money couldn’t pay.
To cite some more recent cases of celebrity bankrupties, try Larry King of talk show fame (he filed twice, seven years apart!), John Connally, the former Texas governor (he actually went on to become Secretary of the Treasury!), and crooner Tammy Wynette. Burt Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, and Jerry Lewis each went through such severe financial difficulties that they filed bankruptcy as well. Today Donald Trump hires and fires young entrepreneurs, but a decade ago, his $900 personal liabilities drove him into bankruptcy court.
Needless to say, these are not the people who fill my Indiana Bankruptcy Law office every day of the week. So why bring up the celebrity cases? I will tell you why: Many of my clients are upset and perhaps even ashamed that their finances appear to be in ruin. So, to lend a bit of perspective, I like to take these “celebrity skeletons” out of the closet just to say to the average Joe, “You’re certainly not alone.”
What I’m really hoping to do, besides introducing a little humor into what may seem at the time to be a grim situation, is teach a lesson using celebrities as examples. Bankruptcy is not The End! Bankruptcy is a chance for a new beginning!. What’s your post-bankruptcy “Greatest Show on Earth” going to look like?