How Wayne Newton Really Lost So Much Of His Money

Forget Cher and Celine Dion; back in the day, Wayne Newton was whom the Las Vegas crowds were flocking to see. Given his immense popularity, it's not surprising he was worth hundreds of millions of dollars at the height of his career. Still, Newton had never been good with money, and sadly, he blew most of his fortune.

Newton's been performing in Sin City for over six and a half decades and is one of the original Vegas residency acts. Newton was literally "Mr. Las Vegas," in addition to "Mr. Midnight Idol" and "Mr. Entertainment." Newton signed with the Stardust in 1999 and performed six shows a week, 40 weeks a year until the hotel was demolished in 2005.

"[Vegas residents] took me in at 15 years old, and I've been there ever since," Newton told "Today" in August 2023. He's performed over 50,000 shows in front of 40 million fans. Still, Newton said his favorite memory is opening up the T-Mobile arena. "I decided to do a tribute to all those people who made Las Vegas what it is," Newton explained. "Frank and Dean and Sam and Bobby Darin." He announced he was extending his Flamingo residency. "Another year with the Caesars Palace people, and I've been with them for a number of years," Newton said. "I love them dearly." He admitted he had to continue performing because otherwise, he must "get a job somewhere." So, what happened to all of Newton's fortune?

From high roller to bankrupt

According to some outlets, Wayne Newton has $50 million in the bank. It's not bad, but it's a far cry from the hundreds of millions he's earned over his career. Newton's finances became so dire at one point that he was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1992, listing more than $20 million in debt. So, what happened to all of his cash?

The entertainer's bankruptcy filing listed a $341,000 IRS tax lien. Still, most of the debt stemmed from an eight-figure libel lawsuit against NBC. Newton sued the network after they reported the star had connections to the mob. It was a murky subject, as Newton was reportedly pals with alleged Carlo Gambino crime family mobster Guido Penosi. However, he denied knowing about Penosi's mafioso ties. "It was ridiculous. I'm an Indian boy from Virginia; what do I know about the Mafia?" Newton told the Las Vegas Sun in 2000. Newton won the suit but couldn't prove NBC's reporting was malicious, so he wasn't awarded damages.

Per The Las Vegas Review, before the bankruptcy filing, Newton was hit with myriad lawsuits for non-payment "for everything from a Cadillac to $32,384 worth of hay for his stable of horses." The singer also battled with a Michigan airport over unpaid parking fees for his private jet. Meanwhile, Newton returned to the IRS crosshairs in August 2005. Per Forbes, the Feds claimed he owed $1.7 million in taxes and fines from 1997 to 2000.

Living in the lap of luxury

Wayne Newton was a performance professional but wasn't adept at business. In 1997, he opened The Talk of the T.O.W.N. with fellow performer Tony Orlando. The 2,100-capacity venue hemorrhaged money, drawing roughly 360 to 900 people per show, and the pair couldn't pay the $2 million lease, resulting in a nasty and irreparable rift. "​​I decided that I have never given up a friendship over money, but he did," Newton told Larry King in 1999 (via Las Vegas Sun).

Meanwhile, Newton may have failed at business, but he excelled at spending. The singer lived in a 39-acre estate modeled in the fashion of the Tara plantation from "Gone With the Wind." Fittingly, it was known as "Casa de Shenandoah." The primary residence was 11,000 square feet and cost $4 million to build ($15 million and change by today's standards). There were seven other houses on the estate, and Newton employed 70 individuals. There was a hospital and swimming pool for Newton's 100-plus horses. A car museum, jumbo jet terminal, heliport, tennis courts, and a zoo that resulted in costly lawsuits when guests were bitten by exotic animals. Then there were dozens of luxury cars, a Learjet and a Fokker F-28.