I Got Bored and Dug into Joe Exotic's Net Worth and Now I Regret Everything

Things I don’t know: what day it is. Things I do know: way too much about Joe Exotic’s finances.

If you’re still coming down from Netflix’s Tiger King, you likely have a lot of questions. Questions like did Carole Baskin kill her husband? And when will this national tiger-themed nightmare end? And also how rich is Joe Exotic?

Obviously, the answers to these questions are 1) 👀 2) never, and 3) we’re about to get deep into it, so prepare for quite the journey. Also, here is the world’s best gif to put everyone in the right mood:

First of All, Joe Had an Inheritance

Joseph Maldonado-Passage (aka Joe Exotic) got $250,000 in a trust fund from his wealthy grandfather, so he had money to play with from day one.

His Mall Tours Were Cash Cows Tigers (so sorry)

Before Joe was chilling full-time at The G.W. Zoo, he set up a mobile petting zoo that toured malls around the country. And he made a ton of money along the way. New York Magazine reports that “Joe bragged that his mobile petting zoo once pulled in $23,697 in five days.” I mean…okay, Joe!

The G.W. Zoo Was Probably Pretty Profitable?

Exact figures regarding the roadside zoo’s yearly profits aren’t widely available, but in this video, Joe says general admission started at $15:

And don’t forget that Joe’s overhead was relatively small. He barely paid his employees, kept his tigers fed using roadkill and discarded meat from the grocery store, and didn’t seem to spend much money on keeping things…clean.

He also had a knack for convincing fans to front his expenses. According to The Daily Beast, Joe rescued three bears from a circus trainer in 2001 and got his followers to donate over $17k for their care. The outlet reports that his park was “festooned with memorial plaques and posters begging for cash” and that he “raked in serious royalties.”

Plus, don’t forget that Joe was was big into breeding and former crew members say he made “between $1,500 and $10,000 for hybrid cubs.” So yeah, he was generating a lot of income.

Buuuut He Filed for Bankruptcy

Joe spent years being embroiled in legal drama with Carole Baskin, and New York Magazine reports that he once told a hitman (who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent) “This bitch has cost us almost three-quarter of a million dollars in lawyers already.” On top of that, The Daily Beast reports that Joe was ordered to pay Big Cat Rescue $1 million in damages back in 2013.

As you see in the Netflix documentary, Joe was clearly cash-strapped, and fellow big-cat enthusiast Jeff Lowe was a way out—er, at least for a hot second. Joe ended up putting the zoo in Jeff’s name, stayed on as an “entertainment director,” and got $100,000 to ~sweeten the deal~. Not bad, but even so, it doesn’t sound like Mr. Exotic had a lot of money in the bank around the time of his arrest in 2019.

Plot Twist: He Might Get $94 Million

Kay, so last April, Joe was convicted on two counts of murder-for-hire, and he’s not having it. According to The New York Times, this dude filed a lawsuit “seeking nearly $94 million in damages against the Department of the Interior, a prosecutor and others,” saying he was the victim of discrimination as “an openly gay male with the largest collection of generic tigers and crossbreeds.”

When it comes to Joe’s specific net worth, there’s really no way to know what he has in the bank. Mostly because he seems like the type of guy who would have a million dollars buried in a field somewhere. But during his heyday, it’s fair to assume Joe was worth several million thanks to exploiting animals, humans, and generally being the worst. The more ya know!

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