Johnny Depp and Other Stars With Serious Debt Problems
4. Kanye West
$53 million in debt from business ventures
Kanye West made headlines in 2016 after he tweeted that he was $53 million in debt. But West’s financial problems weren’t so much the result of overspending as they were a consequence of his business ventures, Vanity Fair explained. The rapper’s various forays into the fashion world were expensive. Getting a clothing line off the ground comes with big upfront costs, and West’s ventures just weren’t profitable.
But West could be savvier than most people think, Vanity Fair noted, speculating that his attention-grabbing tweet was a not-too-subtle pitch to investors for funding. And with a net worth estimated at $145 million and annual earnings in the tens of millions, others think he was exaggerating his financial woes just a bit. Plus, there’s always the possibility that his wife, Kim Kardashian, bailed him out.
Next: The founding father who died in debt
5. Thomas Jefferson
$107,000 from inherited debt and other expenditures
You know founding father Thomas Jefferson as the main author of the Declaration of Independence and our country’s third president. But did you also know he was a debtor? Yep. The man who declared all men have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was dogged by creditors throughout his life.
When Jefferson died in 1826, he owed $107,000 — the equivalent of $1 million to $2 million today, according to Monticello.org. Although it wasn’t unusual for a man of his stature to owe some money at the time, Jefferson’s debts were unusually large. That was partly because he inherited debt from his father-in-law and partly because people who owed him money weren’t paying up. But Jefferson also lived beyond his means, dropping cash on building projects, pricey furnishings, and wine. Sound familiar?
Next: A child star with big financial problems
6. Lindsay Lohan
$137,000 in back rent payments
Freckle-faced former child star Lindsay Lohan has had a tough time transitioning to an adult career. Yet despite a dearth of film roles, the actress has continued to spend, and spend, and spend some more. In 2010, she was $600,000 in credit card debt. In 2012, she settled a $93,000 debt with the IRS — reportedly with a little help from Charlie Sheen — though she owed the government even more, according the E! News.
Although Lohan has toned down her antics somewhat and is no longer a daily tabloid fixture, her money problems persist. In late 2016, her landlord evicted her from her London apartment because she owed $137,000 in back rent. It’s not the first time she’s been booted because she couldn’t pay the bill. In 2012, she was kicked out of L.A.’s Chateau Marmont after running up a $46,000 tab, including $3,145 minibar bill.
Next: A famous photographer trapped in a big financial mess
7. Annie Leibovitz
$15 million unpaid loan
Celebrity shutterbug Annie Leibovitz is pretty famous in her own right. And like some of the stars she photographed, she managed to run up some serious debt. In 2009, she hadn’t paid back a $15 million loan from Art Capital Group, which sued her for $24 million. She’d put the rights to her photo archive as collateral for the loan, which meant she stood to lose access to her vast back catalog if she couldn’t pay up. Fortunately, Leibovitz struck a deal and was able to hold on to the rights to her work, The Guardian reported.
Leibovitz’s money problems didn’t surface overnight. For decades, the perfectionist photographer had been blowing the budget on her photo shoots and spending recklessly in other ways. In the late ’80s, when she was hired to shoot an American Express ad campaign, she’d actually been denied multiple times for one of their cards.
Next: Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys — or tax debtors like this famous singer.
8. Willie Nelson
$16 million IRS debt
When country singer Willie Nelson found himself in trouble with the IRS, he came up with a novel solution: He recorded an album.
The problems started in 1984, when the IRS decided to a closer look at the musician’s tax returns, according to Forbes. After spotting some funny deductions, they sent him a bill for $16 million in unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest. (Nelson blamed his accountants at Price Waterhouse for giving him bad tax advice.) Eventually, the IRS seized Nelson’s property, selling it to pay down some of his bill.
But it still wasn’t enough, so Nelson and the IRS came to an unusual agreement: He’d share the revenue from his next album — The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories? — with the government. He raised enough to pay off $3.6 million of what he owed, and a successful lawsuit against Price Waterhouse eventually covered the rest.
Next: The rapper who ran out of time with the IRS
9. Flava Flav
$1 million IRS debt
Rapper Flava Flav’s big debt almost landed him in lockup. The former member of Public Enemy owed more than $100,000 in child support to the mother of three of his kids in 2012. The bill could have led to a 180-day jail sentence, but the rapper managed to scrape together $25,000 and avoid getting thrown in the slammer.
The child support debt was small potatoes compared to Flava Flav’s problems with the IRS. In 2012, he also owed more than $1 million in back taxes and penalties.
Next: This famous rock widow wasn’t the girl with the most cake after all.
10. Courtney Love
Hundreds of thousands of dollars for various expenses
Is it any surprise that famously erratic star Courtney Love has problems with money? Over the years, the Hole singer and widow of Kurt Cobain has owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to her lawyers, a drug rehab facility, a travel agency, and American Express, according to various reports.
But at least one of those debts might not have been her fault. She claimed she never opened the Amex cards that were issued in her name, according to CBS News, and it’s possible she was a victim of identity theft. That’s a reminder that everyone — even the rich and famous — should be careful about keeping their personal information private.
Next: A star who didn’t turn out to be a winner with his finances
11. Ed McMahon
$1.5 million total debt
Publishers Clearing House spokesman Ed McMahon apparently needed one of those jumbo-sized prize checks for himself. In 2008, the comedian and Star Search host was $1.5 million in debt, including $644,000 in overdue payments on a $5 million mortgage and a $750,000 bill for American Express. (Maybe it should stop issuing cards to celebrities.)
McMahon’s generosity was partly to blame for his debt problems, according to The Huffington Post. Plus, he wasn’t getting residuals from his many years on The Tonight Show. As a result, he was in danger of losing him Hollywood mansion to foreclosure. His mortgage, which was held by disgraced lender Countrywide Financial, was eventually bought out by a generous investor, who let McMahon stay in the home until he passed away in 2009, according to Bloomberg.
Next: What’s scarier than biting off the head of a bat? The IRS.