Singer, former model, and actress Whitney Houston had a net worth of -$20 million at the time of her death. Even though Houston once signed a $100 million contract and sold over 200 million albums in her lifetime, she was in fact nearly $20 million in debt to her record label Sony when she passed away in February 2012. Born and raised in New Jersey, Houston hails from a family of prominent singers including her mother, gospel Cissy Houston, her cousin Dionne Warwick and godmother Aretha Franklin. Houston began singing at an early age in a junior gospel choir, and back-up vocals for various artists including her own mother, Michael Zager Band, and award winning Chaka Khan. Houston's career as a fashion model picked up and she appeared on such magazines as Seventeen, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. Her self-titled debut album peaked at number one on the US Billboard chart and has been certified diamond by the RIAA. Her impressive discography continues with five subsequent studio albums, all of which have been certified at least platinum by the RIAA, with three of those albums reaching the top five on the US Billboard (Whitney, I'm Your Baby Tonight and I Look To You). From these albums and the two soundtracks Houston contributed extensively to, she has produced eleven number one singles in the USA alone, including You Give Good Love (Whitney Houston, 1985), I Will Always Love You (The Bodyguard soundtrack) and So Emotional (Whitney, 1987). Among her awards are six Grammys and twenty-two American Music Awards. Her acting credits include the films The Bodyguard (grossed $410.9 million worldwide) and Waiting to Exhale, and The Preacher's Wife and guest spots on television shows such as Gimme a Break!, Silver Spoons and Boston Public.
Whitney Houston's Death and Financial Problems
On February 11th, 2012, Whitney Houston passed away in a hotel room in Beverly Hills California. During her career, Whitney sold over 200 million albums and won two Emmy awards, 6 Grammies, 30 Billboard Music Awards and 22 AMA's. Her net worth had declined dramatically in the last years of her life. In 2001, she was flat broke when she signed a $100 million recording contract with Sony/Arista. That fact is especially shocking when you consider that at the peak of her career, Whitney was able to earn up to $30 million a year from touring alone.
When an artist signs a $100 million record contract he/she does not receive the money all at once. An artist is paid in stages, and each payment is essentially a loan based on the success of future albums. Whitney only ever earned $40 million of her $100 million contract but unfortunately her records did not sell well. Therefore she ended up actually owing the record label nearly $20 million. Sony/Arista owns the rights to Whitney's back catalog which has seen skyrocketing sales recently, but Whitney's daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown will not receive any money until 5 million new albums are sold and the $20 million is paid back.
When Whitney divorced Bobby Brown in 2007 she filed paperwork in Orange County California (where the couple was legally married) stating that she had $4 million in debts/obligations, a life insurance policy worth $300,000, $225,000 in a stock portfolio, and just $40,000 cash. At the time Whitney stated that she owned two properties, a $6.5 million house in New Jersey which had a $3.3 million mortgage and a $1.2 million townhouse in Atlanta which had $1.05 million mortgage. Houston also owned nearly $2 million worth of art and jewelry. In sum, Whitney stated that she had roughly $10 million in assets and just over $4 million in debts giving her a net worth in 2007 of $6 million.
Unfortunately, at the time of her death, Whitney was completly broke and was rumored to be asking her mentor Clive Davis for handouts. Her New Jersey home is now dangerously close to foreclosure and the townhouse in Atlanta has already been repossessed. Clive Davis had reportedly loaned Houston $1.2 million to pay off debts and get clean from drugs after her divorce from Bobby was final. Unfortunately she was never able to make the comeback everyone had hoped for.
Whitney Houston's Estate Today:
In the nine months following Whitney Houston's death, her estate earned and estimated $40 million! The vast majority of this windfall came from the enormous spike in Whitney's record and single sales. Her estate also benefited from the release of the movie Sparkle, in which Whitney acted and executive produced. Whitney's executors were able to settle most of her debts and set aside a whopping $20 million for daughter Bobbi Kristina. Whitney's mother has been very vocal about not allowing 19 year old Bobbi to inherit the full $20 million all at once. Cissy Houston wants the money to be divided and distributed in a series of payments.
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Music video by Whitney Houston performing Greatest Love Of All. (C) 1985 Arista Records, Inc.