Dorothy Hamill: Bankruptcy, Olympics and Hope

Dorothy Hamill Bankruptcy Survivor

Dorothy Hamill inherited a tradition of American Olympic Greatness: the heir apparent to the immortal Peggy Fleming, Hamill took the world by storm, winning a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics. Hamill’s bobbed hair and pixie smile soon caused the country and the world to fall in love with her, and success, fame and money followed. Hamill earned millions in endorsements and prize money during her professional career.

Part of Hamill’s legacy during the 1980’s was her appearance in The Ice Capades, an iconic ice show featuring variety acts and skating stars. Despite this apparent success, The Ice Capades struggled during the 80’s as competition from Disney on Ice and the Ice Follies forced the Ice Capades to try and capture whatever audience remained after Disney cornered the children and family market. By 1991, International Broadcasting Corporation, Ice Capades’ parent company, had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

By then on her second marriage, Dorothy Hamill thought she could bring the Ice Capades back to its former glory by transforming the brand from an amorphic variety show into a feature length story on ice. To realize this dream, Hamill and her husband bought the Ice Capades out of bankruptcy in 1993 and sunk $6 million more of her own and borrowed money into refurbishing the franchise.

The result was a rendition of Frozen in Time: Cinderella on Ice that despite its beauty failed to revive the brand. After running the Ice Capades for only two years, Hamill was forced to sell the struggling business to Pat Robertson, who closed the show in 1995. Having drained her own resources, coupled with the failure of her ice skating arena chain (which perhaps suffered from Hamill’s focus on her Ice Capades venture), Hamill was forced into filing a personal bankruptcy in 1996.

Unfortunately, filing bankruptcy was not the bottom for Dorothy Hamill. She spent more years fighting for custody of her daughter, battling depression, and finally dealing with the terrifying reality of breast cancer.

Even though many clients facing bankruptcy need to overcome the stigma and embarrassment of bankruptcy, compared to bankrupt celebrities like Dorothy Hamill most clients endure their bankruptcy ordeals in relative privacy. Celebrities know that their every move will be scrutinized in the public eye, so they have to focus on the real challenge of bankruptcy: rebuilding your financial life through optimism, discipline and work.

The end has not been written to Dorothy Hamill’s story. A survivor of cancer, bankruptcy, depression and divorce she is an avid philanthropist and was a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars” last year, but had to withdraw early because of an injury. She continues to be an icon of success, struggle, resilience and hope.

Dorothy is competing for the “World’s Greatest Celebrity Debtor” in March Madness: Bankruptcy Brackets.