How Tiger King went from GW Zoo to federal prison

Back in March 2020, Tiger King fever swept the nation. Falling just as the country first locked in as a result of COVID-19, the Netflix documentary was watched by as many as 34.3 million people during the first ten days of release. The hitstreamer introduced us to a wide range of crazy characters, including zooeepers that are bigger than life Joe Exotic. We saw his epic rise and fall of shame and saw him lose everything – including his freedom. However, the convicted criminal made some money on the successful success with Tiger King? Does he have any money to talk about while in federal prison? Here’s a deep dive into Joe Exotic’s current net worth.

Joe Exotic was the owner of GW Zoo

KEENESBURG, CO - APRIL 05: A pair of the 39 tigers rescued in 2017 from Joe Exotic's GW Exotic Animal Park relax in the Wild Animal Sanctuary on April 5, 2020 in Keenesburg, Colorado.  Exotic, the star of the wildly successful Netflix docu-series Tiger King, is currently in jail for a murder for rent and handed over some of his animals to the Wild Animal Sanctuary.  Sanctuary cares for about 550 animals on two expansive reserves in Colorado.
(Photo by Marc Piscotty / Getty Images)

Before he became known for his flashy moniker, Joe Exotic was just an ordinary guy named Joe Schreibvogel. Over the years, he has changed his name several times, with the most recent iteration being Maldonado-Passage, a mix of ex and current husbands.

He always had an interest in animals, even as a child. “My animal hobby started in elementary school,” Exotic said in an interview in 2020. “I brought the school’s white mice home for the summer and ended up with hundreds of white mice. We walked around different farmer’s stables at night and caught pigeons to raise and show off in front of 4-H. At one time we had about 500 pigeons. ”

But before Exotic began an animal-focused career, he lived in the small Texas town of Eastvale, working as a police officer. He was the city’s police chief for a number of years, until he was seriously injured in a car accident (or so he claimed). After the accident, he left law enforcement and moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, where he found a job as a pet store manager.

In 1986, Exotic moved back to Texas and bought its own pet store with her husband, Brian Rhyne, and his brother, Garold (aka GW Schreibvogel). According to Texas Monthly, the trio started by selling small animals such as reptiles, birds and fish, and then worked their way up to more exotic creatures such as. three-banded armadillos and four-eyed opossum.

The business was successful enough to earn them all a decent living for a decade, until the tragedy struck in 1997 – Garold was hit and killed by a drunk driver. Joe was devastated by the death of his older brother, whom he had always looked up to as a role model and protector.

“My brother was my hero,” Exotic said in an interview in 2020. “We had the pet store, people gave me a hard time [about being gay], so he painted the pole of the sign at Fielder Road in the color of the gay flag and said, ‘F * ck em, you’re my brother, and if they do not like it, they can handle me.’ ”

The sorrow turned to goodness

Joe Exotic bottle feeds a teen tiger

For grief hit to continue to run the pet store without Garold by his side, Exotic sold the store. Shortly thereafter, he earned a large sum of money from an unlawful death case brought on behalf of his brother, which he used to purchase a 16-acre property near Oklahoma City. He turned this property into Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park (aka GW Zoo) in honor of his brother.

And that was when Exotic’s career as a celebrity zooeeper really took off. In 2000, he brought his first two tigers into the zoo, and then continued to acquire more and more. Two years later, after helping a traveling magician handle tigers for a stage show, he decided to start his own tiger-focused action. The idea attracted a large audience, prompting Exotic to develop the magic show into meetings and greetings where people could pay to pet and pose for pictures with tigers. This is also when he officially adopted “Joe Exotic” as his stage name.

The audience could not get enough of Tiger King, and soon Exotic earned a significant amount of cash from its meet-and-greet feats. He continued to make money on them – and run the popular GW Zoo – until 2018.

Not your typical pet sitter

In addition to making big money for his tigers, Joe Exotic had a number of interesting side effects. If you have seen Tiger King, you have seen clips of his colorful country music videos that contained songs he claimed to be his own but were actually written and performed by hired artists.

Exotic also had a concert as a professional wrestling commentator thanks to a friendship he formed with wrestling promoter and businessman Robert Langdon. Exotic worked for the NWA Texoma company for more than three years, delivering colorful commentary on matches throughout Texas and Oklahoma. He also hosted wrestling shows at GW Zoo.

And let’s not forget Exotic’s political ambitions. That Her Kitty Kitty “Singer” ran as an independent candidate in the 2016 presidential election, where he proclaimed: “The first is that I do not cut hair. I do not change my way of dressing, I refuse to wear suits. I am gay, I have had two boyfriends most of my life … I’ve had some kinky sex, I’ve tried drugs … I’m Joe Exotic, and do not forget, I’m stepping my foot in the ring to run for president now. “

Two years later, Exotic ran for governor of Oklahoma because he just could not wait until 2020 to fight for political power again. “I learned more in 11 months in the graduate race than I did in 12 years of school,” he said in an interview with OKC FOX in 2018. “I was like, I can not keep my mouth shut for four more years … I could be politically correct and I could be polite and I could put it all on the line and no one is listening. “

Fortunately – for everyone – Joe Exotic did not win both races.

How the tiger king lost his crown

a side by side photo of carole baskin and joe exotic
(Left-Joe Exotic’s Mugshot / Right-Carole Baskin / Greetings from Netflix)

Of course, Exotic would not have served as governor for long if he had been elected when Tiger King was arrested in September 2018. He was accused of employing hitmen to kill Carole Baskin, the owner of the Big Cat Rescue Animal Sanctuary.

Exotic had mocked and feuded with Baskin for years, angry that her efforts to quit commercial kids were influenced by his lucrative tiger show business. To try to stop her actions forever, he hatched a failed plot to get Baskin murdered. Thanks to an investigation by the FBI and the US Marshals Service, he was stopped before the plan could be carried out.

Exotic was also beaten with a lot of federal allegations of animal cruelty, including falsification of wildlife records and violation of the law on endangered species. He sold tigers across state borders and even went so far as to kill them when the animals got too old and expensive to keep. In 2019, he was found guilty of two charges of murder for rent as well as 17 cases of animal cruelty. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Joe Exotic’s net worth

Joe Exotic holds a tiger cub close

So after all the legal misery and Netflix-worthy drama, does Tiger King have anything left? According to, the disgraced zooeeper is worth less than an impressive negative $ 1 million. This pales in comparison to Carole Baskin’s reported net worth of $ 10 million.

In March 2021, Exotic announced that he was writing a book from prison. Justified Tiger King: The Official Tell-All Memoir, the autobiography was published by Simon & Schuster.

You can also head over to Joe Exotic’s still running official site to find his other current troubles, including selling Tiger King cryptocurrencies and running a “Bachelor King” contest to find a new partner. The former animal caretaker is also hopeful that he will get out of jail rather than later with ambitious plans to get back on his feet.

“When and if I come out of this alive, I will be the first to combine comedy / music / magic in a concert and tour the world,” he said. “And use that money to save people from hunger and homelessness, save our rainforests for the animals that need them, and defend people in jail and jail against the corruption in our justice system, to end the abuse in jail and keep prosecutors and agents responsible for perjury, just to win a case for their own gain. ”

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