Warning: Spoilers for Netflix’s Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness ahead. By now, everyone and their moms have heard the name Joe Exotic, the former owner of Oklahoma’s Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, who’s in prison for murder-for-hire and animal abuse. While Joe Exotic’s net worth from Netflix’s Tiger King should be the last thing on viewers’ minds after his heinous crimes were revealed in the seven-episode docuseries. But, alas, here we are, wondering how much the self-proclaimed Tiger King is really worth and if he was paid anything for Netflix’s doc?
What’s His Job?
Joe is the former owner of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. He opened the park after his brother Garold died in a car accident in the fall of 1997. As explained in Tiger King, Joe used the money that his family received in a settlement from the company responsible for Garold’s death to open the zoo in his honor. The park, which was originally named the Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park, started on a horse ranch before it became a full-blown zoo that housed tigers, lions and other exotic animals. Before his career as a zookeeper, Joe worked as a police chief in Eastvale, Texas, and then as a security guard for a gay bar in the state. He was introduced to exotic animals from his neighbor in West Palm Beach, Florida, who was the manager of a pet store.
In 2015, Joe signed over the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park to a man named Jeff Lowe, a business partner who would soon turn on him. As explained in Tiger King, it’s believed that Joe sold his zoo to keep it out of the hands of Carole Baskin, the CEO of Florida’s Big Cat Rescue, whom he was involved in a lawsuit with at the time. (More on that later.)
How Much Did His Zoo Cost?
According to the Greater Wynnewood Animal Parks website, general admission to the zoo is $15 for an adult and $10 for children. However, it’s the park’s “Royalty Tour” where it’s assumed Joe earned most of his money. The V.I.P. behind-the-scenes tour cost $175 per person and offered six minutes “private playtime” with baby tigers and and other small animals for an additional $50. Likewise, the doc revealed that Joe made a lot of his money by selling his tiger cubs, according to him, who cost about $2,000 a cat.
Tiger King also revealed that Joe paid his employees only $150 a week and would use expired store products and leftover animal carcasses from the street as food for his animals, which put his cost for supplies at only around $3,000 a year, according to InTouch.
What’s His Net Worth?
According to Cheat Sheet, Joe’s net worth is estimated between $10 and $15 million, but of course, a lot has changed in recent years. In January 2020, Joe was convicted for two counts of murder-for-hire after it was realized that he allegedly planned to kill Carole. He was also sentenced to 22 years in federal prison for several violations of the Lacey Act, a conservation law, Endangered Species Act after federal agents discovered five dead tigers buried in the back of his park. Joe is currently serving his time at the Federal Medical Center Fort Worth in Fort Worth, Texas, though he is seeking a presidential pardon from President Donald Trump.
As explained in Tiger King, Joe struggled with money toward the end of his time at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park. Federal agents allege that he sold many of his big cats, some as young as two weeks old, for cash. Before that, though, Joe made most of his money from the park, where he charged visitors to pet and pose with lion and tiger cubs. He also sold merchandise and pizza for a time. The documentary also revealed that Joe would travel to malls around the country for shows with tiger and lion cubs, though that was put to an end after Carole started to send those malls emails with strongly worded messages about Joe’s alleged abuse. It’s unclear how much his net worth is now, but it’s reported that in his hey day, Joe made between $10 and $15 million.
What About Those Lawsuits?
In 2011, Joe was sued by Carole for $1 million after he allegedly infringed upon the trademark of the Big Cat Rescue. The lawsuit forced him to file for bankruptcy.
But that isn’t the only money-related lawsuit that Joe is known for. After the release of Tiger King, Joe filed a $94 million lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and and the U.S. Department of Interior for mishandling his case. According to TMZ, he claimed that that the government incorrectly listed the “generic tiger” as an endangered species and that he was “discriminated against because he is the only person charged with this statute because [he] is an openly gay male with the largest collection of generic tigers and crossbreeds.” Because of this, Joe filed the suit to pay back the loss of personal property and 18 years’ worth of work with tigers that he lost due to the mishandled case.
Was He Paid for Tiger King?
It’s unclear if Joe was paid for Tiger King, but because the series is labeled as a documentary (which often does not pay its subjects) it’s assumed that Joe earned zilch from Tiger King. However, like most reality shows, it’s possible that Joe and others interviewed in Tiger King received some sort of stipend, though that hasn’t been confirmed.