Woolworth’s Heiress Outspent a Near-Billion-Dollar Fortune, Died Poor

by William White | August 2, 2013 11:07 am

Barbara Hutton managed to blow an inflation adjusted fortune of $900 million[1] before she died.

Frank W. Woolworth founded the Woolworth chain of retail stores in 1879. The stores took off, there were 1,000 locations and the company was worth around $900 million when adjusted for inflation. Frank Woolworth died a rich man, and he left plenty of inheritance to his three daughters.

The middle child, Edna, married the successful founder of E. F. Hutton & Company, Franklyn Laws Hutton. The two had a child, Barbara Hutton. Barbara’s father wasn’t exactly a role model, he slept around, was never home and gave priority to his business. This is what many believe drove Barbara’s mother to commit suicide. At six years old Barbara discovered the dead body of her mother, and was shuffled around between family members afterwards, reports Celebrity Net Worth.

Barbara’s 18th birthday party (which happened during the Great Depression) took an inflation adjusted $1 million to fund, and ruined her image in the eyes of many Americans due to the cost. To avoid more negative press she was sent off to Europe, where she frivolously spent money on whatever she desired. Adding to the already shrinking bank account was Barbara’s seven marriages and divorces. The men spent Barbara’s money without restraint, and got millions of dollars in the divorce settlements, Celebrity Net Worth reports.

After her failed marriages Barbara spent much of her time with drugs, which included codeine, morphine, Valium, amphetamines and frequent shots of vodka spiked soda. During this time Barbara spent even more money, often showering friends, family and complete strangers with expensive gifts. Having to sell personal items to make ends meet, Barbara lived out her remaining days at a New York hotel. She died of  a heart attack at age 66, with only $3,500 of the almost billion dollar fortune remaining, reports Celebrity Net Worth.

The Woolworth chain died in 1997 and was renamed to Venator, which is now Foot Locker (FL[2]).

Endnotes:
  1. $900 million: http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/how-heiress-barbara-hutton-blew-through-a-900-million-fortune-and-died-penniless/
  2. FL: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=FL

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