Following the bizarre legal hijinks that surround embattled “Girls Gone Wild” honcho Joe Francis is somewhat akin to deciphering the plot of “The Big Sleep.” It just goes, and goes, and goes on some more. And those who stick it out to the end typically find themselves more confused than those who don’t.
Back near the dawn of time — November 2002, to be precise — a 29-year-old Francis laid out $5.45 million for a 6,000+ sq. ft. modern mansion in Bel Air. From there, things quickly took a turn for the messy.
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In 2004, an intruder broke into the house and forced Francis to do degrading things on video before abducting him, abandoning him in the trunk of his own Bentley and later attempting to blackmail him. The perpetrator was soon brought to justice courtesy of Paris Hilton, naturally.
But Francis’s massive, highly-publicized legal woes quickly overshadowed any sympathy the kidnapping may have engendered. In 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice filed charges against him for — among other things — more than $20 million in false corporate tax deductions, hiding money in offshore bank accounts, and unpaid federal taxes for the years of 2002 and 2003. That matter, however, didn’t go to trial for some time because Francis was already in jail on felony charges of filming underage girls.
By the time of his release, Francis was greeted with a $34 million federal tax lien by the IRS. On top of that, his mortgage lender — JP Morgan Chase — eventually began foreclosure proceedings against him, claiming Francis had fallen behind on payments for a $5 million home loan.
Those dramas were small peanuts, however, compared to his epic feud with casino billionaire Steve Wynn. In early 2007, Francis ran up a $2 million gambling debt at one of Wynn’s hotels. Francis wouldn’t pay, so Wynn sued him for the money. Francis countersued, claiming his losses only occurred after Wynn slyly plied him with booze and hookers.
The multimillion-dollar tit-for-tat eventually went to trial, where a jury decided in Wynn’s favor. Francis then accused Wynn — on a primetime TV interview, no less — of trying to kill him, so Wynn sued him again, this time for defamation. A second jury then levied a whopping $40 million judgement against Francis (that decision was upheld on appeal, though the award amount was trimmed to $19 million.) For his part, Francis stated that the “mentally retarded” jury should be “shot dead.”
Over the past decade, Wynn and a plethora of other angry creditors have been attempting to collect from Francis, who now lives in Punta Mita, Mexico, on a 40,000 sq. ft. estate. Their efforts have largely focused on Francis’s neglected Bel Air home, which he transferred to a series of shell companies to fend off seizure.
Last year, the Department of Justice finally took title to the Bel Air property and famously sold it at public auction to Wynn, perhaps Francis’s largest creditor. Records show the billionaire casino kingpin forked over nearly $6.7 million for the deed.
Enter the IRS, still chasing Francis for his 2002 tax debt. This May, just three months after Wynn acquired the Bel Air spread, the U.S. government exercised its right of redemption and bought out his interest in the property — records show Wynn was paid more than $6.8 million for his right to title.
Four months after redeeming the estate, the government flipped the .9-acre property in an off-market deal to Francis’s next door neighbor, Kuwaiti billionaire Bassam Alghanim — a man who already happens happens to be one of Bel Air’s largest landowners. Per records, the transfer price was approximately $8.65 million, so the government realized a nearly $2 million profit on the deal.
According to Forbes, Alghanim — the 68-year-old heir of a now-deceased Kuwaiti industrialist — boasts a personal net worth at $1.4 billion. For decades, he’s lived a quiet life in Bel Air, occasionally forking out several million dollars to buy one of his neighbor’s homes. With the acquisition of Francis’s estate, his mega-sized, 10-parcel Bel Air compound (displayed in the gallery) now spans 21+ contiguous acres and includes no fewer than seven houses, one of them scooped up this past April for $11 million. Today, the entire spread is likely worth north of $100 million.
Alghanim’s main Bel Air residence — an 11,000 sq. ft. Mediterranean-esque structure — sits on its own private, gated street just across the way from an ersatz mansion that was long called home by the late, great Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Launch Gallery: Joe Francis's Bel Air Mansion Sells to Bassam Alghanim