The Broke and the Beautiful: Downton Abbey Edition


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This week on The Broke and the Beautiful, “Downton Abbey’s” latest plotline has real roots in bankruptcy, and Starbucks is protesting Patrick Dempsey’s bid for Tully’s coffee shops. Broke also delves into the conundrum faced by designers who skyrocket to fame after creating first-ladies’ formalwear.

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The cast and crew of “Downton Abbey” pose with Ralph Lauren on Dec. 10 in New York City.

We’re always happy when two worlds collide, especially when they include tea and scones. So we were intrigued to discover this week that the bankruptcy plight that the residents of “Downton Abbey” are facing in the TV series’ latest plot line has roots in real life. As Bankruptcy Beat reported, Robert Crawley, one of the show’s lead characters, spent his American wife’s fortune on Canada’s Grand Trunk Railway. Crawley learns the railroad’s looming bankruptcy will cause him to lose out on his entire investment and the family must decide whether to downgrade their lifestyle or fight to save the Downton legacy.

It turns out that the Grand Trunk Railway did, in fact, exist. It went into receivership in 1919 after an expansion plan went wrong, and it was later nationalized by Canada’s government. That’s not all, though. The president of the Grand Trunk Pacific line died on the Titanic, a news event that kicked off “Downton Abbey’s” first episode.

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Patrick Dempsey arriving for the 2009 Golden Globe Awards in 2009.

If actor Patrick Dempsey, aka television’s “McDreamy,” stared into your eyes and asked to buy your coffee shop,  would you sell it to him? Even if someone else offered you more money? That’s what happened with Tully’s, according to coffee giant Starbucks Corp. Bankruptcy Beat reported that Starbucks and the private equity firm it’s partnering with want a bankruptcy judge on Friday to reject the $9.1 million bid, accusing the “Grey’s Anatomy” star of unfairly charming auctioneers to buy up the Seattle-based coffee chain. The spectacle created by Dempsey “may have impeded financing for qualified bidders and creates the appearance that its bid was favored,” lawyers for the private equity firm said in court papers. Tully’s Chief Executive Scott Pearson seems pretty happy, though, having noted in court papers filed Thursday that he supported Dempsey’s offer.

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The dress first lady Michelle Obama wore during the 2009 presidential inauguration is displayed at the National Museum of American History in Washington.

It’s almost time for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, and the most pressing matter is…what Michelle Obama will be wearing, of course. The first lady’s last inaugural gown, a sparkly chiffon number, made designer Jason Wu famous. But even though there’s glitz, glamour and a white-hot spotlight for designers of the first-lady’s attire, it’s not a guarantee of riches, according to the Washington Post. Take Narciso Rodriguez, for example—he’s on the upswing now, but he struggled financially during the recession even as he made headlines for Mrs. Obama’s election night outfit in 2008. (He even created an eBay -only fashion line.) And Mario Pinto, who designed many of Mrs. Obama’s outfits during the 2008 presidential campaign, went out of business. As consultant Richard Burke told the Post, designing such heavily touted pieces of formalwear doesn’t guarantee success—it “doesn’t guarantee anything but exposure,” he said.

Associated Press
In this June 24, 2008 file photo, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, left, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas pose backstage at the BET Awards in Los Angeles.

She may not be taking the stage as a hologram, but Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins is totally making her way onto a TV screen near you. The Associated Press reported that the TLC member, who was in bankruptcy, is starring in a reality show on (of course) the TLC network. The show, which airs Tuesday evenings, is “a real story about a real girl who did real things” according to T-Boz.

Associated Press
A March 11, 2009, file photo shows Nadya Suleman trying to dodge  paparazzi outside her former home in La Habra, Calif.

Nadya “Octomom” Suleman hasn’t been much on our radar after her bankruptcy case was dismissed. But the mother of 14, who has talked to fans via Dial-a-Star and has endorsed payday loans to earn money, is back on government assistance. According to TMZ (h/t Us Weekly), Suleman has signed up for welfare again. Separately, according to the Huffington Post, Suleman didn’t show up to a court hearing this week over a lawsuit involving a diamond ring she allegedly stole when she was part of a Celebrity Boxing tournament. She was banned last year by the venture’s chief executive because her agent allegedly owed people money and didn’t want to pay up.

Associated Press
Dallas Stars goalie Richard Bachman is back between the pipes. 

Now that the hockey strike has been resolved, players will take to the ice again soon. And the Dallas Stars are getting ready for a “short and wild” season, the Dallas Business Journal reported. The team, which saw fewer fans amid its 2011 bankruptcy, may not have won a Stanley Cup in a while. But Chief Executive and President Jim Lites said the next couple of weeks will be “a fire drill.” It won’t be easy, though. “There’s a lot of work to do to win the trust of fans, get tickets out to fans and build a team and bring it up to operational,” he said. The Stars were bought out of bankruptcy in late 2011 by businessman Tom Gaglardi, who won the team after no one else stepped up at auction.

Write to Melanie Cohen at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @MelanieLisa.