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Despite Girls Gone Wild bankruptcy, Wynn still seeks $30 million

February 28, 2013|By Wesley Lowery
  • File photos show casino mogul Steve Wynn, left, and "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis.
File photos show casino mogul Steve Wynn, left, and "Girls Gone Wild"… (Nick Ut, Chris Pizzello…)

A spokesman for the Las Vegas casino owner who is owed about $30 million by Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis says the soft-core porn mogul's decision to have his business file for bankruptcy protection will not deter efforts to collect the debt.

On Wednesday, Francis moved to place GGW Brands and other companies related to the infamous brand -- which specializes in videos featuring young women exposing themselves on camera -- under Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles.

The move was meant to protect the business' assets from casino mogul Steve Wynn, who has successfully sued Francis multiple times during a five-year legal battle.

In a statement Thursday, a Wynn vowed a continued effort to collect on judgments against Francis.

"Our judgments are not against Joe Francis’ companies, but rather against Mr. Francis personally," Michael Weaver, Wynn Las Vegas' senior vice president of marketing, said in a statement. "Consequently, these recent bankruptcy filings by the GGW companies will not slow our efforts to collect on our judgments against Mr. Francis."

The bankruptcy filing lists four disputed claims totaling more than $16 million, including a $10.3-million debt owed to Wynn and a $5.8-million claim from a woman who says the company used naked images of her without her permission.

In a statement Thursday, Francis stressed the company's financial strength.

"Girls Gone Wild remains strong as a company and strong financially," Francis said in a statement. "The only reason Girls Gone Wild has elected to file for this reorganization is to restructure its frivolous and burdensome legal affairs. This Chapter 11 filing will not affect any of Girls Gone Wild’s domestic or international operations. Just like American Airlines and General Motors, it will be business as usual for Girls Gone Wild.”

The legal battle between Francis and Wynn began in 2007, after Francis racked up a $2-million bill during a multiday gambling spree at Wynn's Las Vegas casino.

In 2008, the casino sued Francis to collect the gambling debt. Francis accused Wynn's organization of employing hookers and deceptive practices to keep him gambling as his losses mounted. Wynn responded with a defamation suit in Las Vegas.

In September, Wynn was awarded $20 million by a Los Angeles County jury in a slander lawsuit against Francis, after the Girls Gone Wild founder told reporters that the casino owner had threatened to kill him.

That judgment, combined with the original gambling debt, as well as a $7.5-million defamation judgment awarded to Wynn in Nevada, brought Francis' debt to the Las Vegas billionaire to close about $30 million.

Also disputed in the filing is the $5.8-million debt claimed by Tamara Favazza, a St. Louis woman who successfully sued Francis after images of someone lifting her tank top while she was dancing in a club appeared in a Girls Gone Wild video without her consent.

Favazza's attorney could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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Steve Wynn: $40-million win against Joe Francis sends message

Steve Wynn's $20-million award against Joe Francis likely to grow

wesley.lowery@latimes.com

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