Joseph R. Francis is an American entrepreneur, film producer and was the founder and creator of the Girls Gone Wild entertainment brand. Francis worked as a production assistant on the syndicated program Real TV before releasing the direct-to-video film Banned from Television in 1998. Take a look below for 27 more awesome and interesting facts about Joe Francis.
1. Francis was born on April 1, 1973, in Atlanta, Georgia, to Raymond and Maria Francis, the latter of whom was from Austria.
2. 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.
3. He then lived in Laguna Beach and attended Laguna Beach High School.
4. His first job was at a computer and video store.
5. Francis attended the University of Southern California’s Business Administration program, concentrating his education at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.
6. He also took several courses in film and television, graduating in 1995 with a Bachelor’s Degree from the USC Entrepreneurial Program.
7. Francis’s first business venture began when he was working as a production assistant for Real TV, a syndicated reality television program that aired footage of extraordinary events that were not usually covered in mainstream news.
8. It was there that Francis came up with the idea for Banned from Television.
9. During his time at Real TV, people who worked in the studio would often view footage involving car accidents, violent attacks and other graphic events.
10. Francis licensed the footage, which he then sold through the Banned from Television videos which he marketed via infomercials.
11. The first Banned from Television video was released in 1998, followed by two sequels that were also released the same year.
12. Some of the more famous footage included in the series was: footage of Luis Donaldo Colosio’s assassination; the rampage of circus elephant Tyke; the executions of Roberto Girón and Pedro Castillo; footage of the Royal Jomtien Resort Hotel fire; and the death of Mary T. Wojtyla, a woman hit by a speeding train in Downers Grove, Illinois.
13. 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.
14. The videos were of college-aged women who willingly exposed their bodies or acted wildly on camera.
15. In its first two years, Girls Gone Wild made more than $20 million.
16. By 2002, Francis had produced 83 different Girls Gone Wild titles and was airing 30-minute infomercials on all major U.S. networks.
17. In 2005, the company planned to donate 100% of their gross sales of their Mardi Gras-themed DVDs to the Red Cross to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.
18. Abbey Wilson, who won Girls Gone Wild’s “Search for the Hottest Girl in America” contest in 2012, became Francis’s long-term girlfriend.
19. In 2013, Wilson’s iPad, containing private sexual videos of Francis and Wilson, was stolen. In retaliation, and to prevent distribution of the video before it was sold to any media outlets, Francis’s 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.”
20. In 2014, Wilson become pregnant with twins via in vitro fertilization. On October 7, 2014, she gave birth to two girls.
21. In June 2007, Ashley Alexandra Dupré alleged that Francis and his company filmed her without permission, but she dropped her lawsuit after Francis released footage showing her consent.
22. The following year, four women sued Girls Gone Wild for allegedly filming them as minors. 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.
23. In February 2012, Clark County, Nevada judge Mark Denton awarded $7.5 million to businessman Steve Wynn for defamatory statements made by Francis.
24. In September 2012, a jury awarded $20 million to Wynn in a slander case against Francis for claiming that Wynn had threatened to kill him over a gambling debt. Francis’s witnesses all denied hearing Wynn make such threats.
25. The jury added an additional $20 million in punitive damages. In November 2012, Judge Joanne O’Donnell reduced Wynn’s award to $19 million, reasoning that the jury’s award was “speculative” and based on their dislike of Francis.
26. Francis’s corporation GGW Brands, the parent company for the Girls Gone Wild entertainment brand, filed for bankruptcy in February 2013.
27. The bankruptcy was meant to block Wynn Resorts from seizing the assets of the company for repayment of Francis’s gambling debts.