BLUE was one of the biggest bands of the Noughties estimated to be worth £82million – but now two decades on from their first single, Lee Ryan claims he’s broke.
The All Rise hitmaker, 38, told the court this week that he had “no money” and couldn’t pay a £1,500 fine as he was issued with his third driving ban.
Heart-throb Lee, who appeared before Peterborough Magistrates’ Court via a remote link from his luxury home in Spain, said he spent all his savings while “out of work” during the pandemic.
But at the peak of his career, the singer was estimated to be worth up to £10million.
So where did all his money go?
Sex and drugs
Blue stormed the charts in 2001 with their hit single All Rise and went on to enjoy four years of sell-out concerts and lengthy tours.
They appeared to adopt a work-hard, play-hard routine, frequently attending wild parties.
The band were adored by legions of fans and with their fame came private jet trips, lavish holidays and sex on tap.
The celebrity lifestyle led to Lee becoming addicted to alcohol, which was recognised by fellow bandmate Duncan James, who put him into rehab.
On Loose Women, Lee admitted he felt he had to engage in party boy antics because he was “the young crazy one” in the group.
"It was all going in the wrong direction," he said. "I'd had warnings from my doctor.
"But if I'm honest I wasn't paying them any heed because I wanted to get properly lost."
He also revealed while on Celebrity Big Brother in 2014 that he had been sexually involved with a man.
I was definitely having fun… I didn’t realise I had a drink problem until later
Lee, who had come out as bisexual years earlier, said: "Everyone's done experimentational s***. I'm a well-travelled person."
Bottle of whisky each night
At the worst of his partying days, Lee was “drinking inwardly” and worked his way through a bottle of whisky each night.
He said: “I was definitely having fun. I think the problems came later, I didn’t realise I had a drink problem until later.”
On one occasion he went out to buy milk – but came back without it. He says: “I was about to open the fridge when I felt my eyes wander from the milk to the whisky on another shelf.
"Five minutes later I walked home without the milk and lost another evening with the hard stuff."
In 2014, he was arrested for drink-driving and suspected cocaine use, which forced Lee to go to rehab.
He was also revealed to have taken magic mushrooms with his bandmates in their book, Blue: All Rise, Our Story.
Engaged more times than a switchboard
At one point, Lee’s love antics were so prolific that he was named Sh*gger of the Year, by this newspaper.
In the band’s book, he admitted: “I dived in that pot, swam around in it and took a big, happy bite.”
Blue members joked that he had “been engaged more times than a switchboard”.
Lee proposed to Atomic Kitten's Liz McClarnon in 2003 and Samantha Miller, who gave birth to son Rayn – an anagram of his surname – in 2008.
I dived in that pot, swam around in it and took a big, happy bite
He also has a daughter, Bluebell, now 13, with Jessica Keevil.
Most recently, he’s been dating Verity Paris, an Ariana Grande impersonator, since January last year and had a baby girl with her this June.
Despite the jibes over his love life, Lee stressed: "I don’t fall in and out of love. I was in love for six years, just remember that.”
Blue go bankrupt
Though Blue were said to be worth almost £100m during their first three years together and sold more than 15 million records worldwide, bandmate Simon Webbe, revealed they “hardly saw a penny of it”.
Lee alluded to his financial difficulties in 2010 when he revealed he was “living from cheque to cheque”.
However, he seemed optimistic about being able to get back on his feet because his “earning power was still good”.
He blamed his financial woes on growing up “without a pot to p*** in” and said his money was “lost quite quickly”.
Lee added: “Money management isn’t my thing. I actually gave a lot of it away.”
We hardly saw a penny of it
By 2015, Lee was the last of the boyband to file for bankruptcy and his assets were frozen. Duncan did the same two years earlier.
At the time, a representative said: “Lee has tried to manage his financial commitments from over the years to the best of his abilities.
“But ultimately [he] conceded that bankruptcy is the best way forward in order for him to provide the best future for his children.”
In 2017, the band went on This Morning to explain why they declared bankruptcy and stressed that it was not because they partied too hard.
Simon explained: “When you hear the word, 'bankruptcy', you have this idea you have no money, but we chose to go down this route for business purposes.”
Duncan claimed there was no personal mismanagement of their funds or “bad investments” – just a lot of legal battles.
He said: “We were sued by management who tried to screw us over big time, so we liquidated the company. They went after each one of us at a time.”
Failed tax avoidance
But one year later, Lee revealed where a lot of his money really went.
He invested his popstar fortune into an offshore scheme that was supposed to reduce the amount of tax he paid – but instead, he lost vast sums.
He told The Daily Star: “I put my money in one of those fabled tax avoidance schemes, which I was assured was a great idea.
"Instead my tax bill went through the roof and that was it.”
Lee admitted he was full of regret for the decision and said he “would have run a mile from it” with hindsight.
At one point I received a phone call saying 'We're coming round for your possessions
In the band’s book, he gave further insight and revealed the bank threatened him with debt collectors.
Lee wrote: “At one point I received a phone call saying 'We're coming round for your possessions'.
“And I replied, 'Well I'm bankrupt and you've had everything, so what were you thinking of taking?”
Lee claimed it got to a point where he “literally had nothing to lose” after his fortune vanished.
“Of course the government wants to discourage this kind of thing but going bankrupt actually made me better off financially,” he added.
Luxury beachside apartment
Lee and partner Verity relocated to a plush beachfront apartment in Costa del Sol, Spain, in November.
Verity told Hello!: “We sit in the hot tub on our roof terrace, singing at the top of our voices. I don't know what the neighbours make of it.”
Meanwhile, Lee said he switched England for sunnier climes after having “a lot of fun” in London and wanting a slower pace of life as he got older.
He added: “We took out Spanish residency before Brexit and we will be having Spanish lessons and our daughter will have dual passports."
Covid drained my savings
In court this week, Lee blamed the pandemic for his difficult financial situation and said: “I just don't have any money. I'm not working.
"They stopped the gigs so I don't have any. They've stopped everything because of the pandemic."
The judge, who referenced his decision to move to Spain, responded: “Well they are on in this country.”
Lee told him he had “not got anything” and was warned if the money wasn’t paid he could be brought back to court and face prison time.
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