Rapper 50 Cent Files for Bankruptcy
By KATY STECH
In this May 17 file photo, 50 Cent arrives at the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The rapper filed for bankruptcy Monday.
Eric Jamison/Associated Press
The rapper 50 Cent filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday, halting a dispute over a sex tape.
The 40-year-old rapper, Curtis James Jackson III, filed for chapter 11 protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Hartford, Conn., on Monday, the same day he was supposed to appear in a New York state court to determine whether he owes punitive damages in a 2010 lawsuit filed by Lastonia Leviston, rapper Rick Ross’s ex-girlfriend, court records show.
Jurors said last week that Mr. Jackson should pay $5 million to Ms. Leviston, who said that Mr. Jackson violated her privacy by posting a sex tape of her online. Mr. Jackson’s lawyers dispute the amount of the verdict.
The skeletal, five-page bankruptcy petition didn’t reference the lawsuit. Generally, filing for bankruptcy protection halts lawsuits and collection efforts.
“This filing for personal bankruptcy protection permits Mr. Jackson to continue his involvement with various business interests and continue his work as an entertainer, while he pursues an orderly reorganization of his financial affairs,” said William A. Brewer III, his lawyer, in a statement. Lawyers didn’t explain how he plans to use bankruptcy protection to get a fresh start.
Mr. Jackson estimates that his assets and debts, which were not itemized, are worth between $10 million and $50 million, court papers said.
The bankruptcy petition lists his address as a Farmington, Conn., mansion, which boxer Mike Tyson once owned. The 21-bedroom home is reported to have a racquetball court, a home movie theater and an eight-car garage.
50 Cent put his boxing promotion company, SMS Promotions LLC, into bankruptcy protection on May 26. The maneuver was related to the 2010 sex tape lawsuit.
The lawsuit accused him of posting a 13-minute sex tape on his website in 2009 as part of a “rap war” between himself and Mr. Ross, according to court papers.
“Rap wars or beefs are common in the rap and hip hop culture and involve irritating other artists to create more interest, develop more awareness for themselves and create competition, or battles, as to two can create material ‘up to standard’ quickly,” court papers said.
Mr. Jackson appeared on the music scene in 2003 with his gangsta rap anthem “In Da Club.” He has gone to release five commercial albums and has also acted in such films as the soon-to-hit-theaters “Southpaw.”
Dan Charnas, the author of The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop (2010), said Mr. Jackson came of age when music performers could still make millions of dollars from record sales and performance royalties. He later founded G-Unit Records, which helped propel other rappers, and made deals with Reebok and other fashion pursuits.
Mr. Jackson also invested in the maker of Glaceau Vitaminwater, which was sold to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion in 2007. Industry insiders speculate that Mr. Jackson got between $40 million and $100 million from that deal, Mr. Charnas said.
Last week, the New York Times profiled Mr. Jackson, proclaiming that he “has exceptional business instincts.” But Mr. Charnas said the rapper’s popularity has since faded.
“I think what we see over and over again are rap artists joining the great American tradition of being exploited, climbing out of that exploitation and being an entrepreneur and creating equity, the great American tradition of amassing wealth and the great American tradition of squandering it,” Mr. Charnas said.
This post was corrected at 4:45 p.m. ET to reflect that Mr. Ross didn’t appear in the sex tape.
Write to Katy Stech at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @KatyStech