Tiger King dropped right when binge-watchers needed it the most — March 2020, when many were self-isolating amid the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Joseph Maldonado-Passage (né Schreibvogel), aka Joe Exotic, became a celebrity overnight. However, his net worth doesn’t reflect his fame. Joe Exotic is estimated to be worth negative $1 million, according to Celebrity Net WorthKeep scrolling to learn how the Tiger King earned and lost his money. 

What Is Joe Exotic’s Job?

Before Joe was sentenced to 22 years in prison for attempting to hire a person to murder his longtime critic, Big Cat Rescue CEO Carole Baskins, and for violating the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act, Joe was the owner and zookeeper of Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. 

How Did Joe Exotic Afford the Zoo?

Joe inherited around $250,000 following the death of his grandfather, according to New York Magazine, and received $140,000 from a lawsuit against a trucking company that led to his brother’s death in 1997. 

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Sue Ogrocki/AP/Shutterstock

How Did Joe Exotic Make Money?

The zoo, originally named the Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park in honor of Joe’s late brother, charged $15 for general admission, $10 for children and $175 for a behind-the-scenes “Royalty Tour.” Guests could also pay $80 to play with baby tigers and other animals. Although the domain has expired, the prices, as well as the site, can be found via the WayBackMachine.

According to the documentary, Joe also sold tiger cubs for $2,000 per cat. The convicted felon also revealed that he only paid his employees $150 a week and would feed the animals roadkill and expired grocery store products, helping to lower his expenses.

New York Magazine reported that Joe also ran a mobile petting zoo that toured malls. The outlet reports people would pay $25 to hold a baby tiger for size minutes and $25 more for a photo. Joe claimed to have made $23,697 in five days.

Following the success of Tiger King, Joe released a line of underwear, with his face on the crotch. The underpants sold out in just hours and, according to TMZ, Joe collected a cool $20,000. It is unclear if he was paid for the Netflix documentary. 

Prior to becoming the “Tiger King,” Joe was a police chief at the Eastvale Police Department in Texas. 

He Had a Singing Career

His YouTube channel JoeExoticTV has 374,000 followers where he posts clips of his animals and iconic music videos, but it is unlikely he made much off of his singing career. 

Joe Exotic Filed for Bankruptcy

Joe and Carole Baskin spent years engaged in legal drama. According to the Daily Beast, Joe was also ordered to pay Carole’s Big Cat Rescue $1 million for trademark infringement in 2013; two years later, he filed for bankruptcy. The Hollywood Reporter stated he was also ordered to turn over his zoo to Carole, as well as a number of cabins and his cars.

He filed a lawsuit “seeking nearly $94 million in damages against the Department of the Interior, a prosecutor, and others,” saying he was the victim of discrimination as “an openly gay male with the largest collection of generic tigers and crossbreeds,” the New York Times reported. However, he dropped the lawsuit in August 2020. 

As he said in the documentary, after one of his employees was injured, he may “never financially recover from this.” 

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