5 Famous People Who Beat Bankruptcy

Here are our favourite five role models who faced financial ruin but who avoided disaster.


There is a huge negative stigma attached to bankruptcy, and whilst it’s certainly not something to aim for, bankruptcy’s really not the end of the world. Financial difficulties affect even the rich and famous, and some of the most successful people in the world have either come close to bankruptcy or have gone bankrupt and managed to overcome the problems it presents.

If these people can bounce back from being bankrupt, there is hope for anyone who is suffering with financial burdens.

Abraham Lincoln


Before he became President of the United States in 1861, Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer in Illinois. At the age of 23, the young Lincoln was the owner of a local grocery store which ran into financial difficulty. Lincoln was hugely indebted to creditors in a time before bankruptcy laws existed. He persevered however, and went on to be one of the most successful presidents in US history.

Walt Disney


The man responsible for Mickey Mouse, Snow White and The Lion King also had to deal with the bitterness of failure before creating his enduring animation legacy. In 1920, Walt Disney and fellow cartoonist Ubbe Iwerks created “Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists”. Disney’s early cartoons were a success but when the company overstretched itself bringing in too many animators too quickly they ran up large debts. Disney eventually filed for bankruptcy in 1923. Five years later Mickey Mouse made his first outing in Plane Crazy, the rest is history.

Henry Ford


The first car company founded by the engineering pioneer lasted just 18 months. Ford founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899. By the end of 1900 the company was in severe trouble and eventually went bankrupt. The company was dissolved in January 1901. Ford tried his hand unsuccessfully for a second time before founding the Ford Motor Company in 1903 and revolutionizing the American automotive industry.

Thomas Jefferson

Another US President with financial issues. Jefferson may have penned the Declaration of Independence but he was notoriously poor with money. The third President went bankrupt several times in his life, encumbered by huge mortgages. His debts meant that he could not free his slaves, despite being an outspoken abolitionist.

Michael Jackson


One of the most iconic musicians of our time, Michael Jackson’s domination of pop music is likely never to be repeated. At one point Jackson’s estate was estimated to be worth over $800 million but excessive lifestyle habits and costly court cases dogged his later career. Jackson was on the brink of bankruptcy and faced huge remortgages on properties he owned. It was only after the singer’s tragic death that the Jackson estate was secured thanks to huge boosts in record sales.

Photo credit: theamericanroadside, chadh, armadillo444, annethelibrarian, wallyg, guidosportaal

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5 Responses to “5 Famous People Who Beat Bankruptcy”

  1. Suzie Savings |  Jun 24, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Really interesting article! Now the question is: what did they do wrong and what did they do right (and how can we mirror them?)

  2. Steve Fuller |  Jun 25, 2010 at 7:43 am

    RIP Michael Jackson – May have been on the brink of bankruptcy and a load of court cases, but his tunes were incredible.

  3. Bankruptcy |  Jun 26, 2010 at 8:07 am

    Interesting.. At least now, everyone would know that not all people who went bankrupt will remain bankrupt for the rest of their lives.. This should serve as an inspiration to everyone..

  4. Bellevue Bankruptcy Lawyer |  Jun 26, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    My favorite is the Walt Disney’s bankruptcy story.

  5. Jay |  Jun 30, 2010 at 7:14 am

    Obviously bankruptcy is terrible but who would have thought that Thomas Jefferson had mortgage problems