These Former Forbes’ List Billionaires Went Bankrupt

The life of a billionaire, or anyone who makes one of Forbes’ “Richest” lists, must be glamorous, right? But money can’t buy happiness, and it certainly can’t buy much if you go bankrupt.

These former Forbes’ list billionaires lost their fortunes for various reasons. Plus, one of the youngest richest self-made women who’s making a comeback.

Sean Quinn


Sean Quinn, once Ireland’s richest man, arrives at the High Court in Dublin, Ireland | Peter Muhly/AFP/Getty Images

Once the richest person in Ireland, Quinn had a personal fortune of nearly $6 billion from his multi-billion dollar mining, real estate, manufacturing, and insurance empire, The Quinn Group. The 2008 economic crisis proved detrimental to Quinn’s finances. Quinn invested 25% in Anglo Irish Bank on borrowed money that became worthless when the bank nationalized years later.

Quinn became notorious as one of the biggest individual losers from the 2008 economic downturn and has recently spoken publicly of attempting a comeback. He called the circumstances under which he lost his empire “hostile” and criticised aspects of the management of his former business, claiming it needs “major capital investment.”

Elizabeth Holmes

Forbes Under 30 Summit

Elizabeth Holmes speaks at Forbes Under 30 Summit in 2015. | Lisa Lake/Getty Images

Holmes was Forbes’ youngest self-made female billionaire in 2015 as a result of her 50% stake in the company, Theranos, that she founded and was CEO of. Theranos was valued at $9 billion at the time but things went south when investigations revealed misleading information about the company’s alleged blood-testing technology.

Holmes quickly made another list — that of Fortune’s “World’s Most Disappointing Leaders” — and was banned from owning, operating, or directing a diagnostic lab for at least two years by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The SEC recently sued Holmes and Theranos for raising over $700 million from investors using “false or exaggerated claims.” As of June 2018, Holmes was indicted on nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Theranos announced Holmes’ resignation as CEO although she remains chairwoman of the company’s board.

Sophia Amoruso

2018 Girlboss Rally

Founder and CEO of Girlboss Sophia Amoruso spoke on stage at a 2018 Girlboss rally. | Ari Perilstein/Getty Images for Girlboss

The founder of Nasty Gal and Girl Boss Media was once one of the youngest members of Forbes’ list of the Richest Self-Made Women. Nasty Gal started as Amoruso’s personal eBay store where she photographed herself and model friends wearing vintage clothing that she personally thrifted in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Amoruso experienced relatively quick success after starting Nasty Gal in 2006. Within a decade the online retailer was making $300 million annually and Amoruso herself had an estimated net worth of $280 million.

Yet as of 2016 Amoruso and Nasty Gal were filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in what Amoruso tearfully referred to as “the most responsible decision for the business.” But while Nasty Gal suffered, Amoruso’s other ventures — her Girlboss empire and a new Netflix comedy off her memoir — began to take off. While the Netflix series was canceled amidst Nasty Gal’s downfall, Amoruso still has plans to make her Girlboss empire profitable.

The full-fledged digital media, entertainment and education company dubbed “Girlboss Media”  is Amoruso’s newest venture.

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