Joe Francis. biography
Born Joseph R. Francis on April 1, 1973 in Atlanta, Georgia, Joe Francis made his business debut working as a production assistant for Real TV, a program that aired footage of graphic events not seen in mainstream news.
There, Francis spent the majority of his time viewing an array of footage, which eventually led to him creating the direct-to-video shockumentary Banned From Television (1998). While scanning through footage to include on Banned From Television, Francis discovered clips of female college students willingly flashing their breasts throughout Spring Break and Mardi Gras – an idea that ultimately would turn into his biggest business venture yet, Girls Gone Wild.
Established in 1997, the Girls Gone Wild franchise was a huge success in part of Francis’ business background and ability to use direct-response marketing such as infomercials, which resulted in the franchise bringing in $20 million in its first two years.
Although the franchise revolved around the notion that the college girls in the video were voluntarily exposing themselves, Francis would soon be slapped with several lawsuits pertaining to the videos as well as his off-screen behavior:
June 2007: Ashley Alexandra Dupre sues Francis and his company for allegedly filming without her consent. The lawsuit is dropped when Francis releases footage of her giving his crew permission to film.
2008: A woman from Missouri testifies that she was filmed without consent after a Girls Gone Wild contractor ripped her halter top off at a St. Louis bar. The jury ultimately decides she had given consent. However, she’s later awarded $5.77 million after the defense neglects to show up to the retrial.
March 2008: Four women claiming they were filmed while underage file a lawsuit against Girls Gone Wild. For some reason, Francis decides to represent himself during the trial, but is cited for contempt of court by the judge and fined $2,500 after asking one of the plaintiffs if she’s a prostitute during cross-examination. The incident persuades Francis to hire two lawyers and, luckily for him, leads to the all-female jury deciding not to award damages to the plaintiffs.
February 2012: Nevada judge Mark Denton awards Steve Wynn $7.5 in part of Francis making defamatory statements. Wynn then files a slander lawsuit against Francis for accusing Wynn of threatening to kill and bury him in the desert over a gambling debt. During the trial, Francis’ witnesses all reject hearing Wynn’s alleged threats against Francis. In September 2012, the jury awards Wynn $40 million.
Soon after 2008 rolled around, Girls Gone Wild’s revenue began relying on products sold as DVDs, streaming videos and downloads solely through its website. The company ultimately filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2013.
On August 27, 2013, Francis was sentenced serve 270 days in county jail.