Joe Francis

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This article is about the American film producer. For others with the same or similar names, see Joseph Francis (disambiguation).
Joe Francis
Joe Francis.jpg
Born Joseph R. Francis
(1973-04-01) April 1, 1973 (age 45)
Atlanta, Georgia, United States[1]
Alma mater University of Southern California[2]
Occupation Entrepreneur, film producer
Known for Founder of Girls Gone Wild, Banned from Television
Website Joe Francis Official Website

Joseph R. “Joe” Francis (born April 1, 1973) is an American entrepreneur and film producer.[3] He is best known as being the founder and creator of the Girls Gone Wild entertainment brand.[4] Francis worked as a production assistant on the syndicated program Real TV before releasing the direct-to-video film, Banned from Television, in 1998.[3]

Francis has, at various times, been convicted of tax evasion, bribery, false imprisonment, assault causing great bodily injury, dissuading a witness, record-keeping violations and has pleaded no contest to child abuse and prostitution.


Francis was born on April 1, 1973 in Atlanta, Georgia to Raymond Francis, and Maria Francis, who was from Austria. [5][6] According to Francis, when he was seven years old, the family moved to Newport Beach, California, where he attended Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Elementary School, and then a series of boarding schools.[7] He then lived in Laguna Beach and attended Laguna Beach High School.[7] His first job was at a computer and video store.[7]

Francis attended the University of Southern California’s Business Administration program.[6][7] While at USC, he took part in the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.[8][9][10] In addition to studying business, Francis took several courses in film and television.[8] Francis graduated from USC in 1995 with a Bachelor’s Degree from the USC Entrepreneurial Program.[11]

Business ventures

Banned from Television

Francis’ first business venture began when he was working as a production assistant for Real TV, a reality television program that aired footage of extraordinary events that were not usually covered in mainstream news. It was there that Francis came up with the idea for Banned from Television.[6][8] During his time at Real TV, people who worked in the studio would often view footage involving car accidents, attacks, and other graphic events. Francis licensed the footage which he then sold through the Banned from Television videos which he marketed on paid television advertisements.[11] While viewing footage for inclusion on Banned from Television, Francis came across footage of female college students flashing their breasts during Mardi Gras and spring break. It was this footage that sparked Francis’ next business venture with Girls Gone Wild.[8]

Girls Gone Wild

Joe Francis created the Girls Gone Wild franchise in 1997 when he began using direct-response marketing, such as infomercials, to sell videos that he had produced.[3][4] The videos were of college age women who willingly exposed their bodies or acted wildly on camera.[3][12] In its first two years, Girls Gone Wild made more than $20 million.[11] By 2002, Francis had produced 83 different Girls Gone Wild titles and was airing 30-minute infomercials on all major U.S. networks.[4] In 2005, the company planned to donate100% of their gross sales of their Mardi-Gras themed DVDs to the Red Cross to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.[13]

Journalist Claire Hoffman profiled Francis in the Los Angeles Times in a first-hand account of Francis and the Girls Gone Wild crew.[14]

Abbey Wilson, who won Girls Gone Wild’s "Search for the Hottest Girl in America" contest in 2012, became Francis' long term girlfriend. In 2013 her iPad, containing private sexual videos between Francis and Wilson, was stolen. In retaliation, and to shut distribution of the video before it was sold to any media outlets, Francis' lawyer David Houston threatened, “when we catch you, we will see that you are prosecuted to the fullest extent of both the criminal and civil laws.”[15] In 2014 Wilson become pregnant with twins via in vitro fertilisation.[16] On Oct 7, 2014, Wilson gave birth to two healthy girls.[17]

Legal Issues


In June 2007, Ashley Alexandra Dupré alleged that Francis and his company filmed her without permission, but she dropped the suit after Francis released footage showing her consent.[18]

In 2008, four women sued Girls Gone Wild for allegedly filming them as minors.[19] Francis represented himself for part of the trial, until the judge cited him for contempt of court and fined him $2,500 for asking a plaintiff during cross-examination if she was a prostitute. Francis hired two lawyers that same day to represent him for the duration of his trial.[20]

In February 2012, Clark County, Nevada judge Mark Denton awarded Steve Wynn $7.5 million for defamatory statements made by Francis.[21] In September 2012, a jury awarded Steve Wynn $20 million in a slander case against Joe Francis for claiming that Wynn had threatened to kill him over a gambling debt. Francis' witnesses all denied hearing Wynn make such threats.[22] The jury added $20 million in punitive damages.[23] In November 2012, Judge Joanne O'Donnell reduced Steve Wynn's award by $21 million to $19 million. O'Donnell reasoned that the jury's award was "speculative," and based on their dislike of Francis.[24]

Criminal (State)

In 2003 in Panama City Beach, Florida, officials attempted to halt Girls Gone Wild from filming. Francis sued the officials for violating his First Amendment rights.[25] The same officials arrested Francis for racketeering. He was released on bond.[26] At a July 2006 hearing, the judge disallowed most of the evidence[27] and in January 2007 dismissed most of the charges. Francis pleaded guilty to record-keeping violations, was fined $1.6 million and sentenced to community service.[28] Francis pled guilty for having contraband in his cell. He served 339 days and paid over $60,000 in fines.[29]

In January 2011 Francis brought a group of three women to his home, leading to five charges, three misdemeanor counts of false imprisonment, one of assault causing great bodily injury, and one of dissuading a witness. On Monday, May 6, 2013, Francis was convicted on all five charges. He faced a maximum of five years in prison, and/or $13,000 in fines.[30][31] On May 22, 2013, Francis did an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, calling the jurors "mentally ... retarded" and suggesting they "should be euthanized."[32] He later apologized for his remarks, but stated that he had been manipulated by the media.[33]

On August 27, 2013, Francis was sentenced to serve at least 270 days in county jail, 36 months probation, and has been ordered to complete a Level 3 Anger Management course, as well as to complete 1 year of psychological counseling at a rate of 1 session per week.[34]

Criminal (Federal)

In April 2007, in Reno, Nevada Francis was indicted by a grand jury for two counts of tax evasion.[35] The Department of Justice alleged that Francis claimed over $20 million in false deductions on his corporate returns in 2002 and 2003.[36]

In April 2008, venue changed to the United States District Court for the Central District of California.[37] At a hearing in July 2008, Francis pled not guilty to tax evasion. Francis' attorney, Robert Bernhoft, said that tax returns for the businesses were prepared and filed by a former accountant and not shown to Francis. Bernhoft said that when the accountant left the company, the accountant reported the returns to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to collect a bonus from the Tax Whistleblower Program.[38]

In September 2009, Francis pled guilty to misdemeanor counts of filing a false return and bribery. He received credit for time served.[39] In November 2009, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero accepted Francis’ plea including $250,000 in restitution to the IRS.[40]


His corporation, GGW Brands and the parent company for the Girls Gone Wild entertainment brand filed for bankruptcy in February 2013.[41][42] [43] The bankruptcy was meant to block Wynn Resorts from seizing the assets of the company for repayment of Francis' gambling debts.[44]

In 2015 two arrest warrants were issued for Joe Francis for failing to follow bankruptcy judges orders.[45]


  1. Meet Joe Francis - Biography
  2. Joe Francis Business Biography
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Mireya Navarro (4 April 2004). "The Very Long Legs of 'Girls Gone Wild'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Michael Schneider (8 December 2002). "'Wild' infomercial struts its stuff". Variety. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Joe Francis Biography". Star Pulse. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "Personal Bio". Meet Joe Francis. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "Business Bio". Meet Joe Francis. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  9. "About Entrepreneurial Studies at Marshall". Marshall. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  10. "Rob Bailey" ("29 January 2003). "'Girls' creator will tape wild footage in Tucson". High Beam Research. Retrieved 21 October 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 "Flash Prancing". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  12. "Ariel Levy". "Dispatches From Girls Gone Wild". Slate. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  13. "'Girls Gone Wild' for Katrina". CNN Money. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  14. "Joe Francis: 'Baby, give me a kiss'". Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  15. June, Daniel "'Girls Gone Wild' Founder Has His Own Sex Tape Stolen, to His Chagrin"
  18. Mark Dagostino (3 July 2008). "Ashley Dupré Drops Her Suit Against Joe Francis". People Magazine. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  19. "4 Women Sue 'Girls Gone Wild' Founder Joe Francis for Underage Filming". CNN Money. 25 March 2008. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  20. Montaldo, Charles (8 April 2011). "Jury Clears Joe Francis in Civil Case". Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  21. Francis Mccabe (22 February 2012). "Wynn awarded $7.5 million in case against soft-porn king". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  22. "'Girls Gone Wild' founder Joe Francis loses in $20 million slander case". Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  23. "Jury adds another $20 million in damages against 'Girls Gone Wild' founder Joe Francis". Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  24. ""JOE FRANCIS Catches $21 MILLION Break in War with Steve Wynn">publisher=TMZ". Retrieved 14 November 2012. 
  25. Mireya Navarro (4 April 2004). "Gone Wild and Gone All Wrong". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  26. """Girls Gone Wild" Boss Busted"". The Smoking Gun. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  27. "Girls Gone Wild Catches Break". Emerald Coast Variations. 27 July 2006. Archived from the original on 23 Dec 2008. Retrieved October 24, 2012. 
  28. "Judge Drops Most Charges Against 'Girls Gone Wild' Producer Joe Francis". Fox News. 5 January 2007. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  29. "'Girls Gone Wild's' Francis pleads no contest to child abuse, prostitution charges". Los Angeles Times. 13 March 2008. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  30. "'Girls Gone Wild's' Joe Francis Arrested for False Imprisonment, Assault". August 23, 2011. Retrieved May 16, 2013. 
  31. "'Girls Gone Wild' founder convicted of assault". Associated Press. 7 May 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  32. Galloway, Stephen. "Convicted Girls Gone Wild Mogul Joe Francis Breaks Silence: 'Retarded' Jury 'Should Be Shot Dead'". May 22, 2013. Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  33. Saad, Nardine. "Joe Francis apologizes for 'retarded' jury remarks, plans appeal". May 23, 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  34. "JOE FRANCIS SENTENCED TO JAIL". TMZ. Retrieved 27 August 2013. 
  35. Richard Verrier ("12 April 2007). "Tax evasion charges add to Francis' legal woes". LA Times. Retrieved 21 October 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  36. "Creator of Girls Gone Wild Indicted for Tax Evasion". Department of Justice. "11 April 2007. Retrieved 21 October 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  37. "United States v. Francis, no. 2:08-cr-00494-SJO, U.S. Dist. Ct., C.D. Calif.". 
  38. "'Girls Gone Wild' Founder Fights Tax Charges". Accounting Today. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  39. "Joe Francis Cops Plea In Tax Evasion Case". North Country Gazette. 25 September 2009. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  40. Baxter Holmes (7 November 2009). "Judge accepts plea deal for 'Girls Gone Wild' founder Joe Francis". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 

External links