Being broke pretty much sucks, but it would probably be worse if you had once been a billionaire and then went broke. How does that even happen? A billion (or billions) is a lot of money. Can you imagine making that much, being on top of the world, having everything you've ever wanted, and then losing it all? That is one long fall to the bottom. The five former billionaires listed below all experienced exactly that. They worked their butts off to become some of the richest people in the world and then they proceeded to lose it all. Whether these billionaires participated in illegal activity or were crushed in the economic crisis that started in 2008, the fact is they are all broke today. These five billionaires experienced a fall from the top that was swift and devastating…
Back in 1979, Alberto Vilar and his partner Gary Tanaka co-founded the Amerindo, an investment advisory firm based in San Francisco and New York, with offices in London. The company grew to be worth $1 billion at its most successful. However, the stock market crash of 2000 hit Vilar's company, causing his fortune to start evaporating. Vilar was as a generous supporter of the arts and as of August 2002, the money he'd both given and pledged to opera companies, performing arts organizations, and educational institutions was $250 million. As it turned out, Vilar was stealing money from his clients to fund these philanthropic pledges. In 2008, Vilar was convicted of money laundering, wire fraud, mail fraud, securities fraud, and investment advisory fraud. In February 2010, Vilar was sentenced to nine years in prison. In 2012, he was released, pending his appeal. That appeal didn't go so well, and Vilar was sentenced to 10 years in prison instead of nine.
Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson was once the chairman and owner of West Ham United FC and Iceland's second wealthiest businessman. (In keeping it all in the family, his son was the richest). In 2008, his net worth was $1.1 billion, making him the 1014th richest person in the world. But later that same year he was worth exactly $0. Ouch. Gudmundsson (and his son) were hit exceptionally hard by the financial crisis in Iceland. Gudmundsson also served 12 months in prison for fraud and embezzlement. At the time of his bankruptcy in July 2009, Gudmundsson owed $500 million in debt.
In 2008, Sean Quinn was the richest person in Ireland with a net worth of about $6 billion. Just three years later, he filed for bankruptcy. Quinn was the owners of the Quinn Group, a company owned bank worth about $5 billion in 2005. In 2008, the global financial crisis caused the Quinn Group to take a huge hit. The Anglo Irish bank part of the Quinn Group represented about half of Quinn's wealth. During the recession the bank nearly collapsed, slashing Quinn's net worth drastically. Then in 2008, Quinn Insurance was fined $3.23 million by the Irish government. Multiple court cases further reduced their massive fortune until finally, on January 12, 2012, the Republic of Ireland declared Sean Quinn bankrupt. In November 2012, he was sentenced to nine weeks in jail for failing to comply with the asset stripping that was a result of his bankruptcy proceedings. Sean Quinn went from being worth $6 billion to $0 in just four years.
This former billionaire is currently serving a 110-year prison sentence at the United States Penitentiary Coleman. He was convicted of mail fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. The former chairman of the Stanford Financial Group organized a fraud with $7 billion worth of certificates of deposit and $8 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme. The Stanford Financial offices were raided by the FBI on February 17, 2009. That same day, Stanford tried to flee the country on a private jet but was unable to as the jet company would only accept payment via wire transfer, and of course, Stanford's assets had been frozen. Stanford was arrested on June 18, 2009 and sentenced to 110 years in prison in June 2012.
Brazilian mining, oil and gas magnate Eike Batista made a fortune. In 2012, Batista was worth $30 billion, making him the richest person in Brazil and the seventh wealthiest person in the world. By 2013, his net worth was "just" $200 million and falling rapidly. By January of 2014, Batista had a NEGATIVE NET WORTH. His losses, according to Bloomberg News were historic. More than $30 billion evaporated in less than two years. His descent into poverty can be traced back to the severe downturn in the mining industry and the catastrophic collapse of Batista's OGX, which claimed it would pump 750,000 barrels of oil a day—only to find itself pumping 15,000. Also, other economic issues and management decisions factored in as well, creating a sort of Perfect Storm for his loss of more than $30 billion. Batista's wealth decreased more than 100% between March 2012 and January 2014. However, Batista, who is currently the chairman of Brazilian conglomerate EBX Group, has said that he fully plans to pay back all of his debt obligations and leave no creditor unpaid.