Businessman and film producer Joe Francis, best known for being the founder of the Girls Gone Wild franchise, has a long history of success, lawsuits and scandals. After years of profiting off intoxicated coeds on spring break and countless famous friends, including the Kardashian family, his net worth is a lot less than one would think. According to Celebrity Net Worth, Joe is worth an estimated $25 million. Keep reading to learn more about his life, family, and how he made his fortune.

He Has a History of Shock Factor Productions

Before there was the internet, there was Joe Francis. According to his personal website, the film producer has “always loved to work” and was “thrilled” to “make money.” After he graduated from the University of Southern California, where he studied business and film, he began working as a production assistant on Real TV, a reality show that aired footage not typically seen on mainstream news.

There, workers viewed graphic content, including assaults and car accidents. It was also where Joe got the idea for Banned from Television. He Joe licensed footage of disturbing content, including assassinations and executions, a rampage of a circus elephant and murders. He sold the tapes via infomercials. 

While attempting to find videos to include on Banned from Television, Joe found footage of college girls at Mardi Gras — and the Girls Gone Wild franchise was born in 1997. Celebrity Net Worth reports that the franchise earned $20 million in its first two years and “generated hundreds of millions in revenue during its lifetime.”

Legal Trouble

In 2003, four women sued Girls Gone Wild for allegedly filming them as minors. Joe pleaded not guilty to child abuse and prostitution charges. He was sentenced to 339 days in jail, according to Fox News.

In 2011, he brought three women to his home who claimed he held them against their will. He was charged with three misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment, one assault causing great bodily injury and one of dissuading a witness. He was found guilty on all five charges, per The Hollywood Reporter. In an interview with the outlet, he said, “each and every” member of the jury “should be euthanized.” 

The IRS also isn’t a fan of the filmmaker. In 2007, he was indicted by a grand jury for two counts of tax evasion and the Department of Justice alleged he claimed over $20 million in false deductions in 2002 and 2003. He pleaded guilty in 2009 and paid $250,000 in restitution, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

Joe Francis with Kris Jenner, Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick

In 2007, he racked up $2 million in debt at one of Steve Wynn’s Las Vegas casinos. According to TMZ, Joe claimed the real estate developer threatened to kill him. Steve sued for the comments and the jury ruled in his favor in 2012 and he was awarded $40 million. An appellate court upheld the ruling but reduced the fee to $19 million, the Las Vegas Sun reported.

Ultimately, after a string of lawsuits and legal battles, Girls Gone Wild filed for bankruptcy protection in 2013 to prevent Steve from taking the company’s assets. The New York Post claims the company was once worth $100 million.

According to The Sun, Joe was arrested in Mexico in 2020 after he grabbed a woman by the neck and spat at her in an attempt to give her COVID-19. He was allegedly diagnosed with the virus the day before the incident. After being taken into custody under preventative detention on August 13, 2020, he was released on September 8 after the victim allegedly “issued her forgiveness.” The charges were dropped on the condition that the businessman attend six months of psychological therapy — law enforcement claimed the six months were completed. 

He Met His Ex and Mother of His Twins, Abbey Wilson, Through Girls Gone Wild

Abbey Wilson won Girls Gone Wild’s “Search for the Hottest Girl in America” contest in 2012 and started dating Joe. In 2013, after filing for bankruptcy, they fled to Mexico. 

Joe Francis with Abbey Wilson
Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock

The pair went on to have twin girls. According to Us WeeklyKourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick were the first people the then-couple told. The twins were born on October 7, 2014. 

In July 2021, Joe took to Instagram to claim his now ex stole $250,000 from him and “kidnapped” their daughters “out of their sleep” and kept them for six months. 

“What a Golddigger. Abbey Wilson is holding my daughters hostage and trying to get money out of me. It is plain and simple,” he wrote at the time. 

He continued to post about his ex, including calling her a “child abuser” in September 2021. 

According to legal documents obtained by TMZ in December 2021, Abbey ignored a court order to allow Joe to see their daughters and they have “fallen off the grid.” The outlet claims Abbey was accused of “family violence,” however authorities have not been able to serve her as she has yet to be found. Joe claimed on his Instagram that she “kidnapped” them on December 26, 2021.

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