How to blow a fortune
- By Andy Boyd -
- Jul 25, 2012
The rich and powerful of the world are those that have worked tirelessly to achieve their status. They are a picture of determination and fortitude. But they live with one great fear: that their children will inherit their money, but not their work ethic. Today's guest blog looks at those who have done exactly that, heirs who blew their inheritance...
George Huntington Hartford
George Huntington’s story is legendary; he was born in 1911 to one of the wealthiest families in America and heir to an incredible $90 million fortune but blew it all away on hopeless business ventures, beautiful women as well as ‘vulgar’ and ‘painful’ artistic endeavours. In 2001 he was found living in squalid rented accommodation in one of the poorest parts of New York.
His inheritance was derived from a grocery and tea business called Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, which his grandfather and uncles had tirelessly built into the world’s leading retail grocery business. Upon his Grandfather’s death he became beneficiary to a $1.5 million annual income, lived in a fabulous apartment on 5th Avenue and was educated at Harvard, where he was ‘ostracised’ for being ‘new money’.
He set about pumping his inheritance into multiple business ventures, which all failed miserably. These included a newspaper company, an art gallery, a resort in the Bahamas, a model agency and a theatre company. Undeterred, Huntington kept generating new ideas; his theatre company’s adaption of Jane Eyre was panned as ‘painful’ and played to an empty house for 6 weeks. The resort, a renovation project in the Bahamas was renamed ‘Paradise Island’ and featured a grand venetian style mansion which entertained guests such as Winston Churchill, but amassed losses of $30 million after Huntington forgot to buy a gambling license.
His main weakness seemed to be for beautiful, expensive women. He married four times, one of which was to Diane Brown, star of the James Bond film, Thunderball. He was known to say of his escapades: “At least I did something artistic with my money.” But then added: “The golden bird, coming to life, has sometimes wriggled out of my hand and flown away.”
The Parkin Family
Though some heirs squander their inheritance over many years of frivolous living, other take a mere matter of seconds to blow away the family fortune. Sophie Parkin’s great grandfather was one of those people. She tells how her (not so) great granddad staked his family’s castle in Wales, it’s land and entire contents on a game of cards while his wife and children lay sleeping, and lost it all. She tells how the family was roused in the middle of the night and told: “You don’t live here anymore.”
The family’s fall from grace was ever present, due to the fact that they were given accommodation in a tiny cottage just minutes from the impressive castle and so they were always within full view of their financial descent.
Barbara Hutton, heiress of the Woolworths millions, was dubbed the original ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’ by the media. They closely followed the rocky adventure of her extravagant lifestyle, where she spent her family fortune on luxurious mansions, cloaked herself in designer clothes and jewels and surrounded herself with a horde of playboys. Despite getting her well-polished claws on $42 million dollars, she ended up almost bankrupt, plagued by addiction and trailing the remnants of seven broken marriages.
Frank Woolworth worked every day of his sixty-six years to build the Woolworths Empire; famed for its ‘pick and mix’ stores. It had taken the company 100 years to overtake its company rivals. He had come from humble beginnings and was very proud of the flourishing empire, building a Woolworth’s tower in New York to remind all of his powerful status.
The entire Woolworths money fortune has famously seen the family go from rags to riches and back again in three generations; Hutton has enabled the Woolworths financial ruin along with the help of her reckless cousin, Jimmy Donahue. It remains to this day a sore topic to surviving Woolworth family members.
The famously reclusive American copper-mining heiress’s spending habits have succeeded in watering down the family assets with some very strange spending. She has seen to it that the generations after her will not see a penny of her vast inheritance. Clark cut surviving relatives completely out of her will and instead leaves money to various charities and a total of $34 million to her private nurse.
Huguette Clark’s spending has been well documented; she has been alleged to have inherited around $43 million and spent the money on a multitude of opulent homes including a $100 million mansion in California, three apartments on Fifth Avenue, New York and a country home in Connecticut. Court proceedings related to her will show Clark was dolling out $1 million a month to the upkeep of these homes, although they remained uninhabited for a decade as she was living in hospital rooms for the latter parts of her life. She is reported to have never even lived in the Connecticut home and the California mansion has been vacant since 1963.
Huguette Clark died at the impressive age of 104 in a nursing home, leaving lots of question marks surrounding the family feuds which caused Clark to relinquish the family fortune from any surviving relative.
Image from Flickr
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