How 50 Cent lost his fortune

Rapper 50 Cent filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2015, and the move surprised many. The Verge proclaimed the "Straight to the Bank" rapper had "self destructed," openly wondering, "How did the world's biggest rapper become a punchline?" Meanwhile, The Washington Post — the same newspaper that valued Fiddy's net worth at nearly half a billion dollars in 2010 — airily inquired, "Is 50 Cent really broke?"

Born Curtis James Jackson III on July 6, 1975, 50 Cent hit the big time when he was just 28signing to Eminem's Shady Records and Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment for $1 million. His 2003 debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin', sold 872,000 copies its first week and 6 million copies by the year's end. In 2005, the Queens-born rapper starred in a Hollywood biopic of the same name, demonstrating his knack for diversifying. "A lot of times it takes money to make money," he told the New Zealand Herald in 2003. "Once you acquire a little finance you can make some moves."

But some of those "moves" proved to be ill-advised. From an ongoing beef involving a sex-tape scandal to a soured business deal, here's how 50 Cent kissed millions of dollars goodbye.

What did he have to lose?

Despite a penchant for Burberry shirts, Dior Homme shoes, and Audemars Piguet watches, 50 Cent had plenty of cash to burn in 2015. Mere days before the "Big Rich Town" rapper filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, The New York Times published a fawning profile to promote his boxing drama Southpaw, a film that found 50 Cent stepping into a "significant supporting role" alongside Jake Gyllenhaal.

Emblazoned with the headline "50 Cent, Renaissance Man," the piece traverses well-trod territory, describing him as a "former crack cocaine dealer who has been shot nine times" and praising his "exceptional business instincts." At the time, he'd sold over 22 million albums and starred in 21 films. 

That's not to mention his EFFEN vodka partnershipPower (the Starz melodrama he stars in and executive-produces), his luxury men's underwear collection, the Bulletproof video game, his POWER for Men scent, and the "G-Unit" brand — those are just some of the many business moves he's made over the years. Fiddy also invested early in Vitaminwater, and he reportedly made between $60 and $100 million when Coca-Cola bought the company.

Oh, and let's not forget his deal with Sleek Audio, which went extraordinarily sour

He jumped ship on a promising business venture

There was big news for Fiddy fans and audiophiles alike in January 2011, when word got out that 50 Cent would endorse a "line of Wireless Hybrid products" designed in partnership with electronics company Sleek Audio. The line would be called, lazily enough, "Sleek By 50 Cent." (Motto: "Escape into Your Music.") At the time, 50 Cent sounded ecstatic about the collaboration, and Sleek Audio's President and CEO Mark Krywko sounded equally pleased to be working with the man he beguilingly called "the world's most toured artist."

One slight problem: Midway through the project, 50 Cent abruptly decided to go with another company to produce "SYNC by 50" headphones, according to Vibe. Sleek Audio reportedly felt Fiddy had thoroughly breached their confidentiality agreement and accused him of flagrantly stealing their design.

A lawsuit was more or less inevitable, and it subsequently cost 50 Cent a significant chunk of change — $17.2 million, to be exact.

However, 50 Cent didn't immediately dash across the street to the nearest ATM. In December 2014, TMZ reported that his personal bank account was temporarily frozen after he failed to pay the judgement. An attorney for the rapper gallantly told the site not to worry, because 50 Cent's fortune was "appropriately protected."

That attorney clearly had no idea what was coming next.

A beef turned into a costly scandal

Beefing turned out to be an expensive pastime for 50 Cent, particularly when it comes to Rick Ross, a rapper he's been feuding with since approximately the advent of fire. In April 2009, Billboard reported that Ross and 50 Cent had been taking "verbal and visual jabs at each other" for the better part of the year.

The rift reportedly began when Ross released "Mafia Music," which touched upon several personal matters in 50 Cent's life, including a public spat with Shaniqua Tompkins, the mother of his eldest son Marquis, over child support. After several public exchanges, 50 Cent reportedly took things one step too far: In March 2009, he reportedly leaked a sex tape starring Ross' "baby-mama" Lastonia Leviston and a former boyfriend, entirely without her permission. Fiddy allegedly added his own commentary and had his face superimposed over the boyfriend's before posting the footage online, as reported by The Mirror. The stunt was reportedly a bid to embarrass rival Ross.

The ensuing lawsuit was a bloodbath, and a serious money drain for 50 Cent.

In July 2015, The Mirror reported that a "sex tape row" had been instrumental in what they called the "rapper's downfall." According to the New York Daily News, the "Candy Shop" rapper was ordered to pay $5 million for "infliction of emotional distress" and "violating her civil rights."

A subsequent Mirror article reported that 50 Cent was ordered to pay Leviston an additional "$2 million in punitive damages" later that month.

​Then came the bankruptcy filing

When 50 Cent filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July 2015, headlines presumably wrote themselves. "50 Cent low on cents," chirped CBS News. Meanwhile, The Washington Post called the move "puzzling," especially considering how Forbes had just estimated Fiddy's net worth to be $155 million that May.

As CNBC reported, "documents filed in Connecticut Bankruptcy Court" alleged Fiddy's total assets were around "$10 million to $50 million." He claimed his liabilities were in the same ballpark. According to NPR, the filing "blocked" Sleek Audio and Lastonia Leviston from receiving their cash. As bankruptcy attorney Leon Bayer put it, "It tells them they aren't going to get a check anytime soon, so why not sit back down at the negotiating table." The timing was telling, too, as Fiddy filed mere days after losing against Leviston. 

On Feb. 18, 2016, 50 Cent was ordered back to court. According to The New York Times, creditors were perplexed by Fiddy's Instagram account. One photo depicted the rapper sitting beside stacks of $100 bills, arranged to spell "BROKE." He assured the court it was "prop money," adding, "Just because I am… sitting next to what appears to be large sums of money … does not mean that I own everything in those photos."

Nevertheless, creditors suspected the images were "openly contemptuous," and perhaps they were right. Later that afternoon, Fiddy posted an Instagram photo that featured bills bursting from his waistband.

But the $8 million he made in bitcoin saved the day... right?

In January 2018, multiple reports claimed 50 Cent's early dabbling into the shadowy netherworld of cryptocurrency had suddenly paid off big time. TMZ reported the down-on-his-luck rapper had unwittingly made "between $7 million and $8.5 million" because of a fortuitous 2014 business decision to allow fans to purchase his Animal Ambition album with bitcoin. He allegedly made about 700 bitcoin in album sales, which remained in his account as bitcoin's value continued to rise.

50 Cent eagerly gloated on Instagram after the news broke. "Not Bad for a kid from South Side, I'm so proud of me," he wrote (via NPR). 

Well… that Instagram post is now deleted, and for good reason.

On Feb. 26, 2018, The Blast revealed they'd acquired some intriguing court documents from 50 Cent's bankruptcy case: In those papers, the rapper openly acknowledged he "never owned, and does not own, a bitcoin account or any bitcoins, and, to the best of his knowledge, none of his companies had a bitcoin account from 2014 to the present."

What inspired 50 Cent to brag about a fortune that didn't actually exist? "So long as a press story is not irreparably damaging to my image or brand, I usually do not feel the need to publicly deny the reporting," he explained.

This begs the question: If his bitcoin fortune was fake news, where does that leave Fiddy's finances?

How broke is broke exactly?

Want to fight a losing battle? Try getting a handle on 50 Cent's financial situation after 2015. In 2016, Complex lamented, "50 Cent is no longer the extremely wealthy millionaire he once was." If that's actually true, he may have simply morphed into another extremely wealthy millionaire.

In August 2015, Page Six claimed financial documents shared in bankruptcy court suggested Fiddy had about $25 million in assets (including a Connecticut mansion, a home in Long Island, and another house in Atlanta). Meanwhile, he was facing about "$33 million in liabilities," most of which stemmed from his lawsuits with Sleek Audio ($18 million) and Lastonia Leviston ($7 million).

That doesn't necessarily mean he was broke in the conventional sense. According to The Washington Post, he was likely "rich-people broke." William A. Brewer III, one of 50 Cent's attorneys, suggested Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection would simply let 50 Cent carry on with his business ventures "while he pursues an orderly reorganization of his financial affairs." In July 2015, Fiddy told Reuters the filing was a "strategic business move," adding, "I'm clear on my target and I'm not going to fall apart based on little things."

In February 2016, the Daily Mail claimed to have "exclusively" obtained bankruptcy documents that implied 50 Cent was "still extremely rich" and holding onto "more than $64 million in assets" and "$10 million in checking and stocks," all while "still earning $184,000 a month."

If true, that would make him rather "rich-people rich," no?

​Emerging from bankruptcy

Despite having to part with a hefty chunk of charge, Fiddy was reportedly "all smiles" the day his bankruptcy case ended on July 6, 2016. According to TMZ, he'd made a deal that would find him paying "$23 million to his creditors" over the course of five years. "Mr. Jackson appreciates the fresh start this process provides," his lawyer said in a statement, "and looks forward to continued success in his personal and professional pursuits."

But how could anyone pay such a gasp-worthy amount in a timely manner? Oh… easily. "50 Cent Is Bankrupt No More," announced Complex in February 2017. The "Heat" hitmaker reportedly bit the bullet in February and paid $22 million, as reported by USA Today. That means he not only effectively satisfied his approved five-year plan, he did it four whole years ahead of schedule. Judge Ann Nevins subsequently discharged his bankruptcy case.

According to Complex, Fiddy only needed to cough up $8.7 million of his own money. The remaining millions came from cash derived from "a recent settlement of a legal malpractice lawsuit against other attorneys." That's because 50 Cent sued his legal team on the Sleek Audio case, claiming the law firm Garvey Schubert Barer was responsible for "numerous failures" while defending him (per Forbes). The firm ultimately settled and forked over $14.5 million to Fiddy.

So, did that mean he was officially out of the woods? (Also: Was he ever really in the woods at all?)

Get rich (again) or die tryin'?

So where does this leave 50 Cent's fortune? According to Celebrity Net Worth, the rapper's net worth is approximately $30 million in 2018. But that figure might actually be inaccurate, as in October 2018, 50 Cent inked a "massive multi-series Starz deal" that could be worth $150 million alone, according to Variety.

That's saying nothing of his presumably lucrative September 2018 tour to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Get Rich or Die Tryin'. Also, in August 2018, Fiddy launched his Champagne brand Le Chemin du Roi, an adult beverage he warns is "for winners only." Each bottle reportedly includes a "14 karat gold-plated emblem," and customers can choose between brut ($199), rosé ($325), or blanc de blancs ($999). Not exactly the desperate cry of a man on the brink of financial collapse. 

And don't forget: 50 Cent can reportedly still afford 200 tickets to a Ja Rule concert, if only to deliberately leave those seats empty in order to sabotage his foe (via Entertainment Tonight). That should really be anyone's barometer for financial well-being.

It seems that when you have as many income streams as 50 Cent, you can afford to lose a fortune or two. As he told The Guardian in February 2018, "Bankruptcy wasn't a big deal for me. It was just me getting my discount. Reorganization isn't broke, y'know?"