These days millionaires abound, mainly because of the highly inflated value of real estate in certain locales. But billionaires? Far and few between. Think it's not possible for a billionaire to go broke? Think again.
Iranian-born, American billionaire Patricia Kluge hit the jackpot when she married self-made television mogul John Kluge in 1982. Mr. Kluge sold his company, Metromedia, to 20th Century Fox in 1986, which eventually was taken over by media genius Rupert Murdoch and became the foundation for his Fox network, "We Report, You Decide". Mr. Kluge was paid $4 billion and that year was named America's richest man with a net worth of over $5 billion.
John Kluge was Patricia's second husband. She had a first marriage to Brit Russell Gay, who turned her into a soft porn star, by featuring her in his British men's magazine "Knave".
The Kluge's lifestyle was opulent and Mrs. Kluge wore the mantle of socialite diva well. For her 40th birthday, she invited 400 guests, including Frank Sinatra, to New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for a frolic that cost $1 million.
Unfortunately, the Kluge marriage only lasted eight years, but Patricia Kluge was amply rewarded. It was reported she left the marriage with assets, including cash and real estate valued at $1 billion. At the time, it set the record for the largest divorce settlement and remained so until the divorce of Rupert Murdoch and his wife.
She married her third husband, Bill Moses, in 2001 and shortly afterwards invested $27 million to develop an exclusive winery in Virgina. The winery met with critical acclaim and Kluge wines were poured at upscale celebrations including Chelsea Clinton's wedding reception.
With such initial success, Patricia and her husband borrowed $68 million to upgrade and expand the winery, which sat on over 900 prime acres. Part of the expansion included the development of an enclave of multi-million dollar homes, suitable for the rich and famous.
Unfortunately, the recession of 2008 spoiled Mrs. Kluge's grandiose plans and she found herself in financial difficulty. In an attempt to salvage her situation, she began selling off her valuable collection of objet d'arts, including a Qing dynasty clock for $3.8 million. She later unloaded her Roman statues, Chippendale commode and her George III crystal chandelier at a two-day Sotheby's auction. But with $69 million in bank debt, it still wasn't enough.
Finally, in 2009 Patricia listed her Virginia home for sale at $100 million, a 45-room mansion with all the amenities one would expect, including a helijet pad, wine cellar, steam room, 13 bathrooms and expansive grounds and gardens. Patricia and her mansion had attracted leaders in politics, business and entertainment, who were feted with elaborate parties in their honour.
But there were no takers and the mansion was sold in foreclosure proceedings to the Bank of America for $15 million measly dollars. Friend Donald Trump acquired the Kluge winery for about $5 million after the bank foreclosed.
Patricia Kluge's fall from grace culminated in her recent bankruptcy filing where she disclosed debts between $10 million and $50 million and assets valued at $1 to $10 million.
The good news is that Mrs. Kluge and her third husband have been offered jobs by Donald Trump. No, not on The Apprentice, but working at the Kluge winery.
Easy come, easy go.
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