There is no love lost between Wynn Resorts owner Steve Wynn and Girls Gone Wild founder Joe Francis. The animosity between the billionaires will likely grow even more contentious after Monday’s jury ruling awarding Wynn $20 million.
The case began back in 2008 when Francis ran up a debt on credit at Wynn’s Las Vegas casino. The debt, $7.5 million, was never paid by FRancis, and the Girls Gone Wild founder soon after made statements to the press suggesting that Wynn threatened to have Francis killed and buried in the desert. Those allegations were not taken lightly by Wynn, who sued Francis for slander.
Monday, the jury found that Francis acted with malice, and awarded Wynn $20 million in damages. That amount far surpassed the $12 million that Wynn’s attorneys had been seeking. The finding that Francis acted with malice will also open the door for Wynn to sue for additional damages in the future, something Wynn’s attorneys have started working on.
Although both Wynn and Francis testified at the trial, neither was in the courtroom when the verdict was read. It was a sign that the suit was more formality between two battling billionaires.
During the trial, legendary musical icon Quincy Jones testified. Jones, a close friend of Wynn, and a neighbor of Francis, denied that Wynn had told him of any threats against Francis. Jones also asserted that the feud was over a debt that Francis should have paid long ago.
Instead of paying the debt, Francis took to the papers, releasing his idea that Wynn had threatened the soft porn mogul. With the ruling Monday, Francis now owes Wynn close to $30 million, a debt that may grow if future litigation is brought on by Wynn.
The money, according to Wynn, was never the issue. The gaming giant has already said that any money he won in his lawsuits against Francis above lawyer fees would go to charity.
Wynn Resorts is one of the most successful gaming companies in the world, and currently holds the top gaming stock price in the US. In recent years, Wynn has focused his attention on expanding his brand into Asia and partnering with foreign online gaming companies as US states begin the process of ending online gambling prohibition.