Sarah Ferguson: Indebted Duchess Comes Clean

Sarah Ferguson admits to financial troubles.

ByABC News
September 30, 2009, 4:23 PM

Oct. 27, 2009 — -- Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, has come clean about the financial problems that have led some to dub her the "Duchess of Debt."

Ferguson told the British magazine "Hello" that she owes 600,000 pounds -- roughly $889,000 -- after the collapse of her U.S.-based business, Hartmoor, a lifestyle company.

Ferguson said she started the company after meeting "someone who has masterminded the careers of several big entertainers," but didn't say who. She said she invested into Hartmoor all the money she earned from producing the film "The Young Victoria" and from her children's book series.

The idea for the company, she said, "seemed fantastic" but Ferguson told the magazine that the reality proved far different.

"I could write a really interesting book about finance for women, and the first bit of advice I would give is never sign away your intellectual property. You won't have any control over your own life. That's what happened to me," she said.

The company, she said, "spent money on offices and moving me into an apartment I didn't need."

"I wasn't on the management team, I was an employee and an investor and yes, I am of course very disappointed and upset at what happened," she said.

Despite her financial troubles, Ferguson said she is not filing for bankruptcy.

"Bankruptcy would be the easy option. I couldn't do that. You only go bankrupt when you have lost all hope," she said.

Ferguson said she had several projects in the works to "to keep the wolf from the door." She will be working with the National Geographic channel on six programs about female adventurers like Gertrude Bell; HandMade Films, a children's film company is turning one of her children's books into a movie and St. Martin's Press is publishing her first novel next year.

Ferguson has had a history of financial trouble.

In 1996, as she was divorcing Prince Andrew, British tabloids were abuzz with the news that she owed more than $4 million to British bankers Coutts and Co. and that the royal family, specifically Queen Elizabeth II, was fed up with Ferguson's free-spending ways and refused to pay her bills.

After the divorce, Ferguson moved to New York and is said to have slowly regained her financial footing. She wrote a successful series of children's books and signed a lucrative and high-profile deal to be the spokesperson for Weight Watchers International.

In addition, to The Sarah Ferguson Foundation, Ferguson also started the charity Children in Crisis. In an interview on "Larry King Live" in 2001, the Duchess admitted that there had been a time when she was financially "out of control" and that it took years to earn the money pay off her debt.