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Author Lowry Files for Bankruptcy : ‘Get Rich’ Story Ends at Chapter 7

Times Staff Writer

Albert J. Lowry, the best-selling author who made a fortune writing and lecturing on how to get rich investing in real estate, has filed for liquidation of his assets under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

The filing, made May 13 in Los Angeles, came as creditors stepped up their efforts to collect from Lowry and marks a dizzying collapse of a man who just a few years ago packed hotel ballrooms nationwide with his lectures and whose net worth was once estimated by a national financial magazine at nearly $30 million.

In a Chapter 7 filing, a person voluntarily files a bankruptcy petition. The person’s assets are turned over to a trustee for liquidation, and proceeds are then turned over to creditors.

The filing also marks the further collapse of the nation’s get-rich-quick business, which promotes through television programs and seminars such theories as how to buy real estate with no money down. Two of the largest get-rich-quick companies, National Superstar in Westlake Village and Beckley Group in Fairfield, Iowa, are currently operating under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Chapter 11 allows a company protection from its creditors while it seeks to reorganize its finances.

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Lowry could not be reached for comment. In an interview earlier this year, the Westlake Village resident downplayed his financial problems, but acknowledged that he lost millions of dollars on real estate in the Lake Tahoe area, blaming strict development laws there. Lowry’s attorney, Stephen J. Snipper, would not comment on the filing.

A former butcher from Thunder Bay in Canada’s Ontario province, Lowry, 60, is considered one of the fathers of the get-rich-quick, no-money-down real estate business that flourished during the inflation-fueled real estate boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Lowry advocated such things as buying property from desperate sellers for no money down and buying rundown properties that could be fixed up.

Lowry rose to nationwide prominence with the publication of his book “How You Can Become Financially Independent by Investing in Real Estate,” which made the New York Times best-seller list in 1980. In a May, 1981, cover story, Money magazine, which estimated his net worth at $30 million, called Lowry a “real estate wizard.”

Lowry also aggressively promoted himself, hiring actor E. G. Marshall in 1983 to narrate a television promotional documentary called “How to Be Successful in America.”

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Lowry’s fortunes have since faded. In October, 1985, Success Development Institute, a Westlake Village company that promoted his theories, collapsed under $2.5 million in debt.

Lowry denied he was associated with the company when it closed, although state records listed him as chief executive.

Last January, California First Bank obtained a court order requiring Lowry and his partners in a Westlake Village health club to pay more than $400,000 for defaulting on a 1985 loan. In addition, Lowry was ordered to pay $173,000 himself.

Lowry’s petition does not list a total figure for his assets or liabilities, and only lists the names of 31 individuals and companies as creditors.

Creditors contacted said they are unsure of how extensive Lowry’s assets are in the wake of his recent divorce from his wife, Darlene. A March 12 paper filed in the case only says that each will keep property that they have in their possession.

Public records show that Lowry has frequently transferred ownership of properties to various companies he has been associated with.

In Ventura County, for example, a condominium owned by Lowry and his wife was transferred to Success Development Institute one day after it closed. Valley Federal Savings later foreclosed on the property. Lowry’s Westlake Village home, which he has tried to sell for as much as $1.15 million, was deeded in 1985 to Lyndene Investments in Zephyr Cove, Nev., a partnership he and Darlene Lowry formed in 1982.


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