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Millionaire to Broke and Back Again

By David Craik on June 25, 2022

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Everyone knows how hard it is to become a millionaire. All that effort, work, sacrifice, investment and occasional luck. But imagine climbing to the top of the mountain, enjoying those rich views and then frittering your cash away as you stumble down the other side. You’ve gone from millionaire to broke.

Frustrating right?

Well meet 5 entrepreneurs who built and then lost a fortune but had the courage and the nous to dust themselves down and do it all again. They went from millionaire to broke.

Key Takeaways

Don’t feel sorry for yourself

Gather your strength

Always have belief


Millionaire to Broke 1- James Altucher

James founded a website design firm called Reset which he sold for $15million in 1998. In his own words within 2 years, he was ‘dead broke’ after spending his cash on a plush new apartment, artwork, playing poker and tipping taxi drivers $100 at a time. “I was rich for the first time in my life spending like an idiot,” he wrote. “I remember looking at my bank account by accident at an ATM machine. There was $143. I had two baby girls and I thought about killing myself.”

Instead, James started writing lists. 10 ideas a day every single day. “Ideas for businesses. For books. Ideas for other people to use,” he wrote. He began investing in new wireless businesses and in 2007 sold StockPickr for $10million to TheStreet.com.

He is now a successful angel investor and self-help blogger, writer and podcaster encouraging people to ‘Choose Yourself’ and change their life for the better.

According to Celebrity Net Worth he has a $50million dollar fortune.

 

Millionaire to Broke 2- Dorothy Hamill

Ice skater Hamill won an Olympic Gold Medal in 1976. She made a fortune -over $1million a year – turning professional including performing in the jazzily titled skating show ‘Ice Capades’.  She created her own ice-skating arena chain and in 1993 acquired the by then failing Ice Capades out of bankruptcy.

However, she struggled to turn it around and combined with the arena chain also being on thin ice and her own extravagant spending on jewellery fell into $1.3million of debt. She had to file for bankruptcy in 1996.

Hamill then battled depression and breast cancer, but she got her career and fortune back on track by writing her memoirs and even acting in films such as ‘Blades of Glory’ with comedian Will Ferrell.

According to Celebrity Net Worth she has a $5million fortune.

Millionaire 3 Yasumitsu Shigeta

The Japanese college drop-out founded mobile phone distribution firm Hikari Tsushin in 1988. It did rather well with Shigeta worth an eye-boggling $42billion by 2000. But the subsequent dot-com crash saw the firm’s shares slump by 99% wiping out Shigeta’s fortune.

However, he did not panic. He pivoted the business model into other areas such as office equipment supply, internet service provision and call centre operations.

The shares have rebounded since then and Shigeta has become a billionaire once more.

Millionaire 4 Bill Bartmann

Back in the 1980S Bill Bartmann was living the dream. His debt-collection company Commercial Financial Services had made him a $3.5billion fortune and he would think nothing of leasing a fleet of Boeing 747 jets to fly his 3,900 employees to Disney World for a weekend. He even – for some reason dressed up as Caesar- wrestled Hulk Hogan in front of 6,000 people in a Las Vegas casino. By 1997 he was the 25th richest person in the US.

However, two years later he lost it all after a business associate was convicted of inflating collection rates. The subsequent reputational hit sent CFS under.

Bartmann was indicted on 58 felony counts by the Government but was acquitted. He had his innocence restored but he was now bankrupt.

He later wrote: “What could I do? Blame someone else? Cry in my beer? I needed to find a way to crawl out from the hole I was in, to come back one more time. I took a good look at my personal inventory by asking questions like, Who am I? What do I know and am good at? What am I not good at?”

Bartmann decided to become a writer and take to the speakers’ tour with contemporaries like Apple’s Steve Jobs.

“I let people see that you can survive anything. It is every bit as bad for people suffering from losing jobs and their homes as it was for me to lose $3.5 billion. My job was to give them hope,” he said.

He succeeded in helping many people set up new businesses. It also gave him new energy setting up CFS II in 2010 with a $25million war chest.

Bartmann died after heart surgery in 2016.

 

Millionaire 5- Ben Way

The UK tech entrepreneur began his first business – search technology WaySearch – in his Bath bedroom. By 17 he was a millionaire living in a penthouse flat in Jersey after selling the rights to the tech for £25million. “From sleeping on a mattress to a four-poster bed it was a real pinch-me experience,” he once said.

However, after too much champagne, too many nightclubs and ‘feeling arrogant and too big for your boots’ the dot-com crash meant the money had gone by the age of 21.

“I was broke. On the same day I read I was on the Sunday Times Rich list – number 18, under Robbie Williams. In fact, I didn’t even have enough money for a Tube ticket,” he said.

Way however found a route back to multi- million-pound status mainly via his early-stage tech business incubator firm The Rainmakers.

Conclusion

The above examples of those who went from millionaire to broke should give every actual or budding millionaire peace of mind. No matter how down on your luck you feel either climbing your way up the ladder of fortune or desperately trying to hold on there is hope.

Everyone, if they use their experience, skills and talent has the potential to bounce back.

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