Investing can be tricky, even if you’re a celebrity (maybe even more so when you’re rich and famous because of the scale and attention). Everybody makes mistakes, but some errors are bigger than others. Here, we share five of the worst celebrity investments.
Stock Market Shenanigans
Bernie Madoff is undoubtedly a celebrity, for better or for worse. He gained notoriety when his $65-billion Ponzi scam went bust in 2008. Mr. Madoff ran a highly successful and legitimate Wall Street investment firm for many years, but he also ran a fraudulent operation that took in millions of investors’ money to buy nonexistent stocks in nonexistent companies. New money was used to pay earlier investors handsome returns on their investments.
This classic Ponzi scheme turned sour during the 2008 financial meltdown when worried investors wanted to cash out their positions, but there was no money to return. Some of the unfortunate celebrities who were scammed included Kevin Bacon and his wife, Kira Sedgewick, Steven Spielberg, John Malkovich, and Zsa Zsa Gabor, among others.
Risky Real Estate
Owning real estate can be a sound investment choice. However, many celebrities had poured their profits into elaborate and risky real estate ventures only to liquidate for pennies on the dollar when funds became tight and foreclosure loomed.
Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds put millions of dollars into her Las Vegas hotel and resort casino, where she performed nightly. The location was a bit off the bustling Strip, and that, along with bad management, caused the venue to lose money consistently. Eventually, she filed for bankruptcy protection, and the casino was sold at a huge loss.
Kim Bassinger spent $20 million buying a whole town in Georgia to bring new fortune to the dying community. Unfortunately, unrealistic expectations and poor planning doomed the project, forcing her to file for bankruptcy and sell for a loss of over $16 million.
Nicolas Cage, a prolific real estate investor, bought two castles, one in Germany and one in the US. These iconic landmarks needed untold amounts of cash for renovations and upkeep. When the financial crisis loomed, Cage had to sell his properties for cheap before they lost all their value.
Many celebrities jumped on the cryptocurrency bandwagon, only to lose vast amounts of money. Most recently, the collapse of FTX, a cryptocurrency digital exchange, brought to light how many celebrities lost fortunes in the crash.
Many famous investors, including Tom Brady, Madonna, Jimmy Fallon, and Kim Kardashian, are being sued by other investors for promoting these risky investments on their social media sites. With all this crazy crypto news, the mantra “buyer beware” should remind you to invest only in what you research and understand. Plus, cryptocurrency markets still lack regulation to protect investors.6
Many celebrities own impressive art collections. This asset appeals to those who want to diversify their investments with high-quality tangible assets. Investing in art is not for beginners, however. As with any investment, there are scammers out there looking to make a quick buck from unsuspecting buyers.
Jack Nicholson, Barbara Streisand, and the band Kiss were taken for $1.9 million in a shady art deal. Robert de Niro lost over a million dollars when a New York art dealer sold 50 of de Niro’s late father’s paintings and never paid a dime to the de Niro estate. John McEnroe lost $2 million when the same art dealer who defrauded de Niro sold him a painting that had liens against it. When it comes to investing, we all need to be careful about whom we trust.7,8,9
Just like everyone else, celebrities want to keep their money safe and grow their wealth over time. Unfortunately, these celebrities fell victim to shady investments that cost them. The lesson is to learn from both your own and others' mistakes and to make sure you research any investment you go into and trust the folks you are working with.