15 Fortunes Lost to Drugs

Celebrities are just as fallible and prone to love of substances as we non-celebrity types. The main difference is that when they fail, they tend to do so in a spectacular fashion. And the whole world knows about it shortly thereafter.

They can perform, you say? Earn millions on a job, you reason? Fabulous for them, but when they start undermining that success by way of gleeful exuberance, spending money like it is going out of style, it just tosses them right back down to our level–or lower. Here are 15 celebrities, business moguls, and athletes who lost their fortunes to drugs.

15. Corey Haim

Image: Bree/Wikimedia

Weird, unlikely, spontaneous and memorable, that was Corey Haim. He was also manipulative, weak-willed and easily led by his demons, in this case both illegal and prescription drugs.

The former star of unforgettable 1980s movies like Lucas and The Lost Boys had ups and downs a-plenty. In the late ’80s, Haim began to cultivate a taste for various illegal drugs, including cocaine. Later, he got clean from the white powder, but then began abusing prescription drugs, revolving in and out of hospitals and rehab.

Everyone from Haim’s mother to former best friend Corey Feldman tried to keep him clean, but he just kept falling off the wagon. His comeback attempts all failed, due in part to all-to-brief clean stints. In the end, Haim didn’t just fall off the wagon, he blew it to bits. He died penniless and alone at the age of 38.

14. Darryl Strawberry

Image: slgckgc/Wikimedia

In 1984, Darryl Strawberry celebrated his amazing baseball career by going on a 7-year bender of cocaine, alcohol, and wife-beating. When he decided that taxes weren’t part of his game plan, MLB suspended him multiple times; he later couldn’t get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Good thing Strawberry still had his addiction to comfort and love him, because he’d alienated almost everyone else around him. He eventually lost the financial fruits of his career to blow, pot, booze and the IRS.

By the time Strawberry hit 30, he was a homeless, wasted shell of a man. Since then, however, Strawberry found another way out in the form of God and although broke, he is now clean.

13. Chet Baker

Image: Michiel Hendryckx/Eikimedia

Chet Baker’s drug-addled destruction wasn’t as glorious as, say, Marylin Monroe’s, but he didn’t do badly, either. After a couple stints in the army, the talented jazz musician, who hit his nadir in the late ’70s, managed to get himself kicked out of both the UK and Germany for various drug-related shenanigans. One such incident involved him being badly beaten while copping drugs.

Along with losing his money, he lost his teeth, which–you can imagine–had a disastrous effect on his career. But thanks to musicians like Elvis Costello, who gave Baker another shot at glory, he started making a comeback in the 1980s. With his evocative yet emotionally distant approach to jazz, he enjoyed moderate success overseas, arguably more so than here.

Baker reached the peak of his comeback around the time of his death. Whilst in Amsterdam in the late 1980s, he took a nosedive from his second story hotel room. Doped to the gills on heroin and coke, he probably just got clumsy and keeled over. His death lacked the zing of publicity-fodder by being linked to a murder or a sex scandal, but still, what an ignominious way to die.

12. John P. Rogers

If you’ve ever pictured yourself as a coke fiend with a wallet the size of the Grand Canyon, here are three prime examples of things you can do when you’re in a cocaine-fueled craze:

1. Trash your girlfriend’s house
2. Beat up your other girlfriend, and best of all
3. Bilk some of the country’s richest men out of millions of dollars to….you guessed it, string your naughty little habit along until it kills you or gets you tossed in the slammer!

Believe it or not, the businessman-turned-druggie behind all three of these incursions had the presence of mind to convince at least three of the nation’s highest rollers to part with their money.

John P. Rogers’ Pay by Touch program was supposed to revolutionize the way customers paid for goods and services. Its innovative system of using customers’ thumbprints to authorize transactions stood to pay investors back tenfold. Like Madoff’s house of cards, it sounded like a sure thing. That’s why folks like Gordon Getty, Ron Burkle (grocery and retail magnate), and retired Appeals Court Chief Justice William Newsom funneled a combined total of $340 million into Pay by Touch, which Rogers basically turned into Pay by Snort.

It’s true what they say–“easy come, easy go”.

11. Michael Carroll

They say that wealth changes a man. Few epitomize this better than Michael Carroll. This once-and-future rubbish collector, self-proclaimed King of the Chavs (a derogatory term given to a subset of British youth from the working class – often associated with drinking, drugs and general rowdiness) lived a life of excess that would have made the ancient Romans blush.

After winning a ₤9.7 million Lotto windfall, Carroll showed up to collect his check wearing an electronic ankle bracelet for a prior offense. He proceeded purchased a fleet of luxury vehicles, dropped tens of thousands into a (failed) Dubai real estate venture, still more into his favorite local football team, and thousands of pounds on hookers and drugs.

It’s important to note that the hookers and drugs didn’t occur until after his wife left him and took their daughter with her. After all, Carroll was an idiot, but he didn’t cheat.

Carroll’s wild parties, thousands of pounds in property damage, and other steamy excesses put him right back where he started—driving a garbage truck. Now he behaves as though it were just a wild ride at an amusement park.

10. George Jung

Despite his father Frederick’s best efforts to instill the idea that money wasn’t the most important thing in life, George Jung became one of the biggest players in the coke trade during the ’70s and ’80s. Portrayed by Johnny Depp in the 2001 movie Blow, Jung amassed around $700 million in today’s money working with Colombia’s Medellin Cartel. By the time the Feds had nabbed him, Jung had lost his family and most of his friends, and his empire was failing.

When the Feds release Jung from the joint in 2012, he’d be lucky to have even one dope fiend still alive his heyday raise a rolled up dollar bill to him.

9. Lindsay Lohan

There seems to be a mindset or culture in Hollywood that goes like this: “Look at me! I’m in rehab – again!” It ranks only slightly lower than, “Look, I was busted for buying coke, smashed my new Benz or got another DWI!” Case in point: Miss LiLo herself, aka Lindsay Lohan.

She’ll never be known for having nearly as much talent, success or class as actresses like Angela Bassett, Meryl Streep or Julia Roberts. But that’s no excuse for her to spend herself into a hole, mooch off her well-meaning friends, and get nabbed once again. She hasn’t blown her entire fortune yet, but don’t hold your breath for this stumbling starlet.

8. Dick Lane

Despite being the soulful and sultry Dinah Washington’s last husband, Dick “Night Train” Lane was a wreck. The Rams (and Lions and Cardinals) defensive back, known for tackling his opponents during the 1950s and 60s, did an admirable job of trying to bring down his wife’s life, too.

Lane relished booze, drugs and a lavish lifestyle. But, this being the mid-20th century, Lane only pulled in about $5 million during his entire career, not monthly the way some NFLers do today. So he relied on Dinah’s sweet pipes to maintain this lifestyle.

After Dinah perished next to him in bed, no thanks to drug ingestion, Lane’s lifestyle and mounting debts made him penniless. His $800/month pension–injured knees forced him out of the game–did little to pull him out of his bad habits.

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Lane died alone at the age of 73. In his final days, he’d been cared for by some fellow he met on a golf course in an assisted living facility. Neither of his ex-wives nor his children had ever come to see him or to help. So much for the thrill of success.

7. Jack Whittaker

Murder, mayhem and millions–this is the story of Jack Whittaker’s face plant from grace into a cesspool of his own design.

If you lived in West Virginia several years ago, you may know Whittaker as the winner of what was, at the time, the largest-ever lottery payout–$315 million. After taxes on the cash option, he took home about $113 million.

Jack started out admirably enough. He donated 10% to local charities and started a fund to help low income families in the area. He also bought the lady who sold him the ticket a new house and car as a ‘tip’.

Things didn’t just go downhill after that, they straight launched off a cliff. On two occasions, he left hundreds of thousands of dollars in his car. The folks who managed the strip joint he frequented were wise to his riches: They drugged his drinks then had thieves break in to steal it.

Then the deaths happened. First, a 17-year old male friend of his granddaughter died, then his granddaughter herself was found dead under a tarp at the former friend’s home). The boy’s parents sued for wrongful death. That suit, along with mounting settlement costs, gambling debts and mooches crawling out of the woodwork turned Whittaker’s life to a shambles.

6. John Daly

Image: Carl Lindberg/Wikimedia

John Daly is proof positive that football and baseball players aren’t the only athletes who can be undone by drugs and alcohol.

Daly earned millions of dollars in corporate endorsements playing for the PGA. He augmented his unique style of playing with copious quantities of booze, perhaps thinking it improved his swing. His embarrassing showings at various golf tournaments proved otherwise.

Daily even admitted that he’d been drinking a fifth of Jack Daniels since the age of 23. This should have put the suits at the PGA on alert. Still, they let this drunken sot of a train wreck play for them, though they did suspend him for sub-par (no pun intended) performance on multiple occasions. This did nothing to assuage his booze-fueled rages and angry tantrums on the green when he actually did manage to play and wasn’t in rehab.

Other than Jack Daniels, his drink of choice seemed to be the Dirty Arnold Palmer, made of sweet tea-flavored vodka and lemonade. The drink is now famously called the Jack Daly. If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that you can be a raging idiot, but if you drink enough to pickle your liver, maybe someday they’ll rebrand the drink after you.

5. Lawrence Taylor

Image: Shawn Collins/Wikimedia

In light of his wild and self-destructive antics off the field, L.T. came under fire multiple times for both heavy cocaine use and drinking. When asked what he could do that no other linebacker could, he blithely replied “Drink!” And let us not forget that after a brief stint of sobriety, he solicited a 16-year old girl for sex. He was summarily charged with and indicted on charges of statutory rape and third-degree patronization for offering the young lady $300.

It’s that kind of behavior that can make even the most decorated player turn out to look like the biggest turd in the bowl.

4. George Best

George Best enjoyed a two-decade football career with Manchester United, Cork Celtic, South Africa’s Jewish Guild and various teams in the United States. He is still considered one of the greatest footballers around.

Like so many athletes and celebrities, though, he loved to party. When he wasn’t spending time behind bars for assaulting the fuzz or driving while intoxicated, Best could best be described as a sauced-up lout. For example, his 1990 appearance on BBC’s “Wogan,” when he drunkenly declared to the host, “Terry, I like screwing,” was not one of his crowning moments. Punching his second wife and a couple of his former girlfriends ranks high on the drunken debauchery list, too.

Best drank so heavily that in 2002, he received a liver transplant. Having pissed all his money away, Best’s transplant was paid for by the National Health Service (NHS), The UK’s publicly funded healthcare system.

Best, for all his accolades on the field, had an opportunity for redemption after his transplant. He could easily have cleaned up his act, made amends and been an example. But following his transplant, Best continued to drink. He wasn’t even coy about it. A combination of anti-rejection drugs and alcohol caused a fatal kidney infection that finally did Best in.

3. Leif Garrett

Although he was one of L. Ron Hubbard’s biggest devotees, this former ’70s heartthrob was not a very observant little Thetan. He abused copious quantities of both coke and heroin throughout his career, spending the majority of his fortune on substances that Hubbard’s doctrine holds to be verboten.

But like most religious types, we’re pretty sure he found ways to excuse his actions or just outright ignored those particular tenants of his strange cult.

Long after Garrett’s star had faded, he claimed on an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music that he was clean and sober. After that BS claim, he proceeded to get himself arrested for buying drugs from an undercover cop (they’re always buying from cops, aren’t they?), then later was busted again for possession of heroin and for riding the LA subway without a ticket.

Things must be pretty bad when a once sought-after actor can’t afford a subway ride. After walking away from a live-in treatment center, he was jailed again on heroin possession. He’s living on a pittance of only $1,000/month, yet he still tries to skate by with his addiction. Shame on you, Garrett–what would Hubbard say?

2. Andy Gibb

If you needed proof that modern teen idols aren’t the only ones whose lives can unravel because of drugs and fast living, this sweet-tempered lad should do nicely as an example.

Andy was the youngest sib in the family of brothers who formed the 70s singing sensation The Bee Gees. While brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice were far and away more successful than their youngest, he released three albums of his own (and was working on a fourth) just before his death in 1988.

Fame was well on its way to 86ing the heartthrob when he met former Dallas star Victoria Principal. When Principal gave him the ultimatum to pick her or the coke, he, like a true addict, made the wrong choice. No shocker that she dumped him.

Andy was hired for the occasional two-bit roles and even hosted a TV show. But as his looks faded, so did his career. In 1985, he entered the Betty Ford clinic to battle his addiction. Still, a day late and dollar short, Gibb died five days after his 30th birthday. He had it all: looks to die for, charm and tons of sex appeal – perhaps even some talent – but it doesn’t mean squat if you snort it all away.

1. Scott Storch

Halifax-born, American record producer Storch was at the top of his game back in 2006, producing hits for notables like Dr. Dre, Pink, Christina Aguilera, Snoop Dog and Beyoncé. Everything Storch touched turned to gold or platinum.

It was during one fateful vacation that drugs seduced Storch. He started living well beyond his means. Numbers vary, depending on the source, but between August 2006 to January 2007, it’s estimated Storch ‘blew’ between $17 and $30 million. He bought a fleet of expensive cars, a yacht and enough drugs to fill both the cars and yacht.

Predictably enough, Storch’s attorneys call his financial loss “mismanagement of funds.”

Written by Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.