Heiress Patricia Kluge files for bankruptcy

Mike Krumboltz
The Upshot

Patricia Kluge was once known as "the wealthiest divorcee in history." Those days are over. Kluge, who had formerly been married to the late billionaire Paul Kluge, recently filed for bankruptcy protection, citing debts somewhere between $10 million and $50 million and assets between $1 million and $10 million.

News of Kluge's fall from financial grace stirred up a frenzy of Web searches. Over the course of an hour, online lookups for "patrica kluge" spiked as did interest in "patricia kluge bankruptcy" and "patricia kluge broke." A lawyer for Kluge and her husband, William Moses, remarked that the couple is "getting on with their lives, trying to discharge their debts and start over."

Click image to see photos of Kluge and her home


AP

We doubt the couple will be out on the street selling pencils anytime soon. Still, Patricia Kluge's present straits represent  a remarkable reversal for a woman who, at one time, was one of America's richest and most extravagant socialites. A buzzy article from the AP explains that the Kluges once hosted parties for "royalty, corporate chieftains, celebrities, and literary figures." She lived in a 23,500-square-foot mansion, owned a winery and, by all accounts, lived the good life.

A little too good, as it turned out. Her financial troubles began to pile up during the economic downturn and creditors started seizing her assets in earnest earlier this year. Kluge and her husband had attempted to renegotiate their loans with various banks, but failed. In April, Donald Trump bought most of Kluge's winery and vineyard from Farm Credit Bank for $6.21 million.

Of course, Kluge is hardly the first one-time millionaire to fall on tough times. Barbara Hutton, heiress to the Woolworth fortune, married many men, including actor Cary Grant. Thanks to a life of bad investments, extreme generosity, and terrible financial advice, Hutton lost nearly all of her fortune. She died in 1979 at the age of 66, with approximately $3,500 to her name.

In 2010, Johnson and Johnson heiress Casey Johnson died cut off from the famliy fortune and owing more than $100,000 to debtors. And history is full of athletes and entertainers who had millions only to lose it all to bad investments. M.C. Hammer, anyone?

As for Kluge, all is not lost. According to The Hook, she still has a job at the winery she built. She's not the owner anymore, but at least she's employed.