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The Rise And Fall Of Girls Gone Wild's Joe Francis: A Story on How Once A Mastermind Entrepreneur Became a Felon

Shrijan Thu Jan 16 2020
The Rise And Fall Of Girls Gone Wild's Joe Francis: A Story on How Once A Mastermind Entrepreneur Became a Felon

A purveyor of the lurid, Joe Francis' penchant for the shocking, and the lewd has often landed him in hot waters!   

The 46-year-old mastermind entrepreneur and video producer behind the softcore entertainment brand, Girls Gone Wild, Francis, is also known for his long list of criminal felonies. His felony charges range from tax evasion and physical assault to prostitution and child abuse.    

While nowadays, the name Joe Francis can only be heard amongst the hormone-fuelled dorm whisperings of college students, Francis was once the personification of the American Dream- a rich millionaire with a dedicated fan following. "Women wanted to be with him, and men wanted to be him!" - as they say.

Joe Francis is friends with the Kardashians
Joe Francis pictured with the Kardashians- Kourtney Kardashian (left) and Khloe and Kim Kardashian (Right)

Source: Zim Bio

But how did a veritable multi-millionaire become relegated to a down-on-his-luck felon? We look at the rise and fall of Joe Francis.

The Rise Of Joe Francis

Early Success With Banned from Television

Joe Francis was born on April 1, 1973, in Atlanta, Georgia. Son of Raymond and Maria Francis, Joe lived in Newport Beach, California, and Laguna Beach, California.   

Joe studied Business Administration at the University of Southern California's Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.  

Francis' first major gig came as the production assistant for Real TV. The reality TV show aired extraordinary footage of unlikely events that were too controversial for daytime TV. While working there, Francis happened upon footages too disturbing for television- footage of road accidents, graphic deaths, violent crimes, and the sort.

Thus, Banned from Television was born. The footage was aired in 1998 through the Banned from Television video, disguised as infomercials. Even Francis, as sensationalist as they come, realized that the footages were too disturbing, and stopped licensing the videos after two subsequent sequels.  

It was during the viewing of the footage that Francis came up with his next endeavour. The footage included women baring their breasts on camera during a Mardi Gras celebration, and a light bulb went off in Francis' head!

Francis' Rise Into Prominence With Girls Gone Wild

"Sex sells"- and Francis knew it. Spurred on by the success of women baring their tops on camera during his Banned from Television days, Joe had the idea of targeting a predominantly male demographic with promises of nudity and lasciviousness.

Bordering on the pornographic- but not entirely, the first video- aired in 1997- was a hit with the male audience who would give their left nut to watch scantily-clad women as they performed lewd acts on camera. The premise for the video was simple: use college-aged women wearing next-to-nothing, and pay them to perform in wet T-shirt contests, take off their tops, and all-but engage in out-and-out sex to advertise videos that Francis produced. 

Mastermind entrepreneur and video producer behind the softcore entertainment brand, Girls Gone Wild, Joe Francis  

Income Source: NBC News

Within two years, the movie had amassed more than $20 million. As of 2001, the film had sold 4.5 million copies at a time when porn was still a niche and not as ubiquitously available.  

The success of the first video provided Francis with the sway to start a franchise with a similar premise. By 2002, Francis had produced more than 83 Girls Gone Wild videos. The 30-minute infomercials were even being broadcasted in all mainstream TV networks that included E! Entertainment Television, Fox Sports Net, BET, and Comedy Central.

The success of the franchise spun off into a Girls Gone Wild magazine, a clothing line, compilation records, and a male companion-piece titled Guys Gone Wild targeted at young women. 

The Fall Of Joe Francis

While Francis had a sound mind for business, his mind for the law is anything but! He has had multiple run-ins with the law which has chipped away at this wealth and his reputation.

Legal Disputes Of Girls Gone Wild

Francis' legal dispute started in 2003 when the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint against his company for not notifying customers for a continual subscription. The matter was settled the next year for $1.1 million.

In 2006, Girls Gone Wild's marketing agency, MRA Holdings, was taken to court for not recording the women's ages and was forced to drop $2.1 million in damages.

There were also multiple women who came forward with accusations of a lack of consent while filming. The first was a woman named Ashley Alexandra Dupré, who came forward in June 2007. Her pleas were denied when Francis released footage of Dupré voicing her consent. 

Another woman came forward with similar allegations in 2008 but was found to have given consent. She did receive $5.77 million when the defendant failed to show up in court.

Legal Troubles Of Joe Francis

Joe has landed in hot waters himself for his hot-headed attitude, failure to comply with the law, and being an overall nuisance.  

Francis was forced to pay $2,500 for contempt of the court during the Ashley Dupré trial. Francis was also found guilty of record-keeping violations and fined $1.6 million along with community service.

He was then found guilty of having contraband in his cell and sentenced to 339 days in prison and forced to pay $60k. In a more egregious offence, Francis pleaded no contest for accusations of child abuse and prostitution.

In January 2011, Francis again faced arrest for five felony charges, including physical assault, when he brought three women to his home without their consent.

He made matters worse when he slandered the jury in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. He was sentenced to 270 days in state prison, and a 36 months probation. He was also to attend anger management and see a psychiatrist. 

Francis was also indicted for two counts of tax evasion worth $20 million.

Girls Gone Wild Bankruptcy

The Girls Gone Wild company filed for bankruptcy in February 2013. The company filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to prevent Wynn resorts from liquidating its assets following Francis' gambling debts.

In May 2015, when Francis failed to meet the bankruptcy agreement, the U.S District Court issued an arrest warrant.

To evade the warrant, Francis fled to Mexico with his family, where there are no extradition laws for civil contempt warrants.  

Dispute With Steve Wynn

In February 2012, he was also involved in an acrimonious argument with entrepreneur Steve Wynn for which the court lampooned a lawsuit that put Francis back nearly $50 million- a third of his net worth. 

The dispute between the two moguls stemmed from a debt that Francis owed Wynn, gambling in his casino. Wynn took Francis to court for $2 million- the cost of the debt that Francis owed Wynn. The case dragged for four years, increasing the debt to $7.5 million, including an interest sum.

Joe Francis and Steve Wynn
Joe Francis' legal dispute with Steve Wynn heralded the downfall of Francis

Source: Hollywood Reporter

Instead of facing the music, Francis opted to slander the tycoon on national television. In publicized interviews, Francis stated that Wynn threatened to have him "killed with a shovel and buried in the desert." 

The claims were found unsubstantiated when no witnesses could attest to the threats, and Francis was taken to court for slander/defamation.

In September 2012, Francis was lampooned with a $20 million lawsuit for defamation against Wynn with an additional $20 million in punitive damages. While the suit was reduced to $19 million, it was still a massive blow to Francis.

How Much Is His Net Worth In 2020?

At the hey-day of Girls Gone Wild, Francis was reported to be worth $150 million. The entrepreneur had a sound mind for business and understood that his target demographic was mainly concerned with sex.

A glance at the Casa Aramara

Source: Daily Mail

His Girls Gone Wild entertainment franchise propelled him into the stuff of legend. While he is not as rich now as he had been, then, owing to a string of lousy investment, lawsuits, and run-ins with the law, he is still estimated to be worth $50 million.

Joe resides with his family in a seaside property in Punta Mita, Mexico, dubbed the Casa Aramara. The 40,000-square-foot private estate doubles as a resort and has hosted a litany of A-list celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Eva Longoria, Demi Moore, and Kourtney Kardashian, among others. 

Relationship With Abbey Wilson

Joe Francis practices the debauchery that he preaches, which makes it all the more surprising when he settled down with Abbey Wilson.

Abby was one of the featured girls in Girls Gone Wild, taking home the crown for the Search for the Hottest Girl in America contest in 2012. Joe and Abby soon began dating. 

In 2014, it was announced that Abby was pregnant with twins via in-vitro fertilization. She gave birth to twin daughters on October 7, 2014.

Joe Francis, Abby Wilson, and their twin daughters

Source: Daily Mail

After evading an arrest warrant for failure to comply with bankruptcy agreements, Francis currently lives in Mexico with Abby and their twin daughters.

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