'Girls Gone Wild' files for bankruptcy over debts

March 1, 2013 10:09:05 AM PST
The company behind the "Girls Gone Wild" video empire has filed for bankruptcy in a move it says is an effort to restructure its legal affairs after several disputed court judgments.

GGW Brands LLC and several subsidiaries filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Wednesday in Los Angeles, listing more than $16 million in disputed claims.

The largest claim is $10.3 million that Wynn Resorts Limited is seeking from the company for judgments entered against "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis over a gambling debt and statements he has made about the casino and its founder, Steve Wynn.

The figure does not include a $19 million judgment Wynn won against Francis in a slander trial last year. The case, which centered on Francis' claims that Wynn threatened to kill him over the gambling debt, is being appealed.

Francis no longer GGW Brands, which has made a fortune selling videos and magazines of young women flashing their breasts. Subsidiary companies GGW Magazine and GGW Events have also filed for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy proceedings generally halt efforts to collect judgments in other courts.

"Girls Gone Wild remains strong as a company and strong financially," the company said in a statement, likening itself to other businesses such as American Airlines and General Motors that have filed for bankruptcy to restructure. "The only reason Girls Gone Wild has elected to file for this reorganization is to re-structure its frivolous and burdensome legal affairs."

The second largest claim listed in the proceedings is a nearly $5.8 million judgment a St. Louis woman won against Francis last year in a Missouri court. Tamara Favazza sued after she learned she had been featured on a "Girls Gone Wild" DVD over an incident when she was a 20-year-old college student and someone lifted her tank top at a bar and flashed a camera.

Francis and his company, Mantra Films, are seeking to have the judgment overturned in federal court.

The bankruptcy filing also lists unspecified legal fees in the Wynn and Favazza cases.