"On huge amounts of money," notes Fleetwood, "the interest can mount up real quick."
To pay these ever-burgeoning debts, Fleetwood apparently was hopeful that his income would continue at its multimillion-dollar late-Seventies level. But other members of Fleetwood Mac became involved in solo projects, so Fleetwood's income for 1982 and 1983 was only $350,000 and $255,000.
A series of bad investments didn't help, cither. A $629,000 oil-and-gas-drilling venture – financed by two unsecured letters of credit – flopped. Investments designed to lose money for tax purposes wound up losing far more than anticipated. And according to Copley, Fleetwood says he still owes Warner Communications money advanced on Fleetwood Mac's Tusk and Mirage albums. No wonder Fleetwood says that this bankruptcy had been coming "for years."
The lanky drummer refuses to blame his predicament on bad advice. "I'll take full responsibility," he declares, "rather than whispering in ears, 'Hey, someone should have told me.'"
Fleetwood is quick to note that the bulk of his debt was outstanding bank loans: "At least it's not out of anyone's private pocket that way." But Fleetwood was also in arrears to more than thirty smaller businesses and individuals: $13,814 to the Mayfair Market of Malibu; $804 to the Malibu Animal Hospital; $437,30 to Rodeo Limousine Service. Such creditors have little legal recourse.
Fleetwood says he didn't mean to stiff the little guys, "but there was literally no money. I'm not being flippant about what has happened.
"It was put off as long as it was physically possible to be put off. But you start getting into a situation that doesn't do anyone any good."
Fleetwood is bemused by the general reaction to his bankruptcy. Fans seeking his autograph have been pressing dollar bills into his palm. Indeed, for the forty-two-year-old musician, the entire escapade merely reconfirms some of his lifelong beliefs. "It's lovely to have money, and certainly more preferable not to have this sort of thing happen. But the perspective in which you approach having money is much, much more important than the money."
He remains hopeful that he can repay some of his small-fry creditors – and some of those contacted report that they have indeed received their money. Others, though, have not. "He's had credit here for years, since the beginning," says one employee at John Carruthers Guitar Repair, to which Fleetwood owes $228. "This is just a scam so when the next album comes out, he can keep all the money."
As a matter of fact, he can do exactly that. Kupetz and the estate have the rights to all royalties that Fleetwood may earn from any existing recordings. But any income from recordings made by Fleetwood after the date he filed for bankruptcy is his to keep even though the recordings are part of a contract with Warner Bros, that still has five or six albums to go. "That's why he filed for bankruptcy," says Copley. "You put your old debts and creditors behind you, and move on to new income."
Which is what Fleetwood plans to do – without his house, without his cars and without much of his musical equipment. "I'm doing just fine now." he says. "I'm not a raving lunatic. If you let the whole thing collapse and don't have any sense at humor, I think you're in big trouble."
This story is from the August 30th, 1984 issue of Rolling Stone.
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