If the biggest bank balance or net worth qualifies one for a listing among the richest men in the world, then a negative bank balance should rank one among the poorest in the world. A further disadvantage of finding oneself on this inglorious list is that one may have his career and reputation ruined because negative balances this huge often come with jail time, and all former business associates will immediately disavow any business dealings with the persons so as not to call their capabilities and integrity into question.
The poor man on the streets of Niger, Somalia, Nigeria or Benin Republic who earns less than $1 everyday may even have a better chance of making something out of life than the man who was previously of means, but who gambled it away in a moment of greed, or of unwise financial decision making.
Interestingly, many of the world’s poorest men were once billionaires; they once controlled empires that could have made a real impact on the lives of many people through the creation of value; but there is a saying “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” The list below is a big example.
Top 10 Poorest Men In The World 2023
1. Jerome Kerviel
Net worth: -$7 Billion
Jerome Kerviel, former investment banker with Societe General Bank in France. He attended Lumière University Lyon 2, and graduated with a Master of Finance specializing in organization and control of financial markets. At Societe General he worked his way up from the compliance department, and was promoted to the position of a junior trader.
Jerome Kerviel thus became part of Societe General’ Delta One business team which means he traded program trading of ETFs, stocks, bonds, indexes, and other trading instruments. There are conflicting details about his abilities as a trader; then governor of the Bank Of France; Christian Noyer described him as a “Computer Genius,” while other sources within the bank describe him as not a star.
Jerome Kerviel was charged with unauthorized access to Societe General’ trading computers, so at least he must be very good with computers. He was also charged fraud, breach of trust, and was accused of exceeding his authority. In total, Jerome Kerviel cost Societe General about €4.9 billion ($7 billion).
He went to jail for 3 years, and has since been released. Jerome Kerviel owes Society General $7 billion, and even though he is trying to pick the pieces of his life, it is hard to imagine that he will ever be able to pay it.
2. Eike Batista
Net Worth: – $1 Billion
Eike Batista was one of the richest men in the world, but now with a balance of minus $1 billion, he is one of the poorest. He is a Brazilian-German serial entrepreneur who is reputed to have vowed to become the richest man in the world. He actually worked towards it; he built a conglomerate around Mining as well as Oil and Gas.
Eike Batista was Chairman of EBX Group; which was a conglomerate with several companies such as OGX (oil and gas), MPX (energy), LLX (logistics), MMX (mining), and OSX (offshore services and equipment).
Eike Batista was determined to promote Brazilian infrastructure, and he engaged in large scale industrial projects, but he over extended himself and his business, and that led to his ruin, and the collapse of his empire.
In 2012 he had an estimated net worth of $35 Billion, making him the richest Brazilian, and 7th richest in the world. However, by July 2013, he was worth $200 million due to his company’s falling stock prices. With the compilation of his debts, and the dissolution of his company he is now worth minus $1 billion making him one of the world’s biggest debtors with little hope of repayment.
To worsen his situation, he was imprisoned for 30 years for bribing Rio de Janeiro governor Sérgio Cabral, in order to secure public contracts.
3. Thomas Joseph Petters
Net Worth: Nil
Thomas Joseph Petters is a former American businessman who defrauded the public of about 2 billion dollars. He is currently in prison, and his sentence is for 50 years. Thomas Petters was once one of the most respected and celebrated businessmen in the country.
However, not even the government suspected that he was running a fraudulent business scheme, and stealing money from people, until one of his workers went to authorities to confess, and help them in the investigation.
Thomas Petters was the Chairman and CEO of Petters Group Worldwide. He started business legitimately; in 1988, Petters founded Amicus Trading, a wholesale brokerage company; he later changed it to The Petters Company, and sold consumer merchandise.
He took a step further in 1995 when he started Petters Warehouse Direct. It sold consumer merchandise but specialized in closeout, overstock and bankrupt company merchandise from companies and stores.
He then started an online store called redtag.com, operated by RedTag Inc.; he saw the potential in the online store, and so he decided to concentrate on the online venture, leading him to close the physical stores and to focus on the online ventures.
In 2001, he joined forces with Fingerhut Companies Inc.; which was a direct mail marketing company, and so they started a better version of the online marketing company; this time called Redtagbiz.com. It was so successful that it made about $1 billion per year at its peak.
Thomas Peters started several Ponzi Schemes, and he used the money generated from those schemes to fund his retail ventures. He then created fake purchases in the retail companies, thus reassuring financial institutions to give him loans to expand the business. Interestingly, he managed to sustain this scheme until one of his employees went to the authorities to confess.
4. Barry Jay Minkow
Net Worth: – $612 million
Barry Jay Minkow was once a big businessman; but now he has a negative balance of around $612 million. He once had a very impressive resume; he founded his first company while he was still in high school. The company was ZZZZ Best; and it was a carpet cleaning and restoration company.
Apparently, the success of the cleaning company made him greedy; he started a Ponzi Scheme and used ZZZZ Best as a front for these fraudulent activities. However, the business collapsed in 1987, and this cost the public about $100 million, and he received infamy for having carried out the one of the biggest investment frauds ever done by a single person. He went to jail, and after spending time in a correctional facility he repented.
He became a pastor, and worked with the authorities to investigate fraud. He even spoke at schools and churches about ethics, and doing business the right way. He was soon thrown into jail a second time when it was discovered that he was manipulating the prices of stocks on the exchange. He has to pay back $612 million, but he does not have that kind of money.
5. Scott W. Rothstein
Scott W. Rothstein was once a hugely successful lawyer. Now he has a negative balance of $279, and he is in prison for maybe 50 years (as declared by the judge). He is a former managing shareholder, chairman, and chief executive officer of the Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm which has since been dissolved.
Scott W. Rothstein lived an extravagant lifestyle with a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, and he embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars from his law firm’s account. He may have also used priority information from clients; some of which were top business organizations.
His Ponzi Scheme was valued at $1.2 billion; making it one of the biggest ever such schemes in history. When it got burst, he wired $12 million to Casablanca, and traveled there. From Casablanca he sent a suicide note in which he appealed to his family friends and business partners, begging for forgiveness. He also stated that his wife had no hand in the fraud, and that she should be protected.
However, family and friends pleaded with him to choose life, and to return to America where he could be granted clemency if he turned himself in, and explained exactly what happened. He came back to America, and was tried in court; after which he received a 50 year sentence.
These are the poorest men in the world according to available data; but this list of infamy goes much longer. Plea bargains sometimes make the finer details of criminal activity hidden from the public; and so it is sometimes not possible to know the exact size of a felon’s negative balance. This post will be updated as more information becomes available.