Franci Neely is a Houston-area socialite and philanthropist who is the subject of a viral video that shows her confronting a family during a 1-year-old’s birthday photo shoot on a sidewalk. You can watch the video later in this article.
After that video went viral and sparked controversy, other videos were broadcast on local television stations, and Neely, who was once married to a wealthy baseball team owner, found herself the subject of controversy. She is heavily involved in the arts communities of Nantucket and Houston.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Neely Confronted the Family After They Set Up Props on the Sidewalk, Reports Say
What could have been a nice birthday shoot turned into an ugly confrontation. According to Inside Edition, the family – Kelyn and Isaiah Allen and their daughter Anja – wanted to celebrate the toddler’s birthday with a photo shoot.
The area is often used for photosgraphers and the family put props on the sidewalk for the photo shoot when the woman later identified as Franci Neely confronted them, Inside Edition reports. At one point during the video, which you can watch above, Neely, who is clutching a dog during the confrontation, picks up one of the family’s props from the sidewalk. At one point, she dragged the family’s pink blanket from the sidewalk.
“You’re making my child cry,” a woman says in the video. “Shame on you,” Anja’s mom says.
“She is crazy,” Neely says, to which the mother responds, “You’re crazy.” Neely then appears to strike with her hand in the direction of the camera. Neely then walked off toward her Jaguar car that was parked on the street.
2. Other Videos Have Surfaced Showing Similar Confrontations
Another video, which ABC 13 says is also of Neely, then surfaced. “You don’t have permission to do that sir,” she says in that video, which you can watch above.
Then, ABC 13 ran yet another video that it said showed a woman “confronting” a group trying to take prom photos. The man who shared that video with the station – which did not confirm it was Neely for sure – said to ABC 13: “I still feel violated that someone could just come up to you. They didn’t like where you were. It was a free space. It was disturbing.”
3. Neely Was Once Married to the Owner of the Houston Astros Baseball Team
Neely is “a well-known socialite,” Inside Edition reports, adding that she was once married to the owner of the Houston Astros baseball team, a man named Jim Crane.
The marriage ended in 2015, and it left her a very rich woman. She received about $30 million in the divorce, the site reports.
The pair were married for 21 years.
“It’s all confidential and Franci very much wants to respect the family’s privacy, so we’re just not really able to comment on that at this time,” her attorney told The Houston Chronicle. “She is very close to Jim’s children and wishes nothing but the best for Jim and does not want to strain that relationship in any way. She just wanted me to relay very specifically that it’s important to her that the family’s privacy be respected and they’re trying to work through this amicably and respectfully with each other.”
An article in the Houston Press detailed alleged conflict within the family and Crane’s children with his first marriage. At one point, the article alleges, “Words were exchanged with Franci — (Crane’s first wife) says he (Crane’s son) was defending his mother while the stepmother was savaging her.”
4. Neely Apologized for Her Actions
Neely told ABC 13 that she was “very sorry that I got upset.” The television station reports that the area is popular with photographers but there is a dispute between the condominium association and city over property rights in the area. She told Inside Edition, “I am very sorry that I got upset on late Saturday afternoon…It’s hard to remain composed when confronted by shouted threats of lawsuits and false, inflammatory accusations.”
“We had to take a stand is what we basically had to do because people were going into people’s gardens, standing on people’s front steps and they felt that they could just take over the neighborhood,” HOA president, Cece Fowler said to the television station.
Houston Public Works told ABC 13, “The esplanades of Broadacres are part of a public city of Houston right-of-way. The Broadacres Homeowners Association cannot block the esplanades from public use. Anyone with concerns about members of the public blocking a public right-of-way are asked to call 311.”
5. Neely Is an Attorney Who Met Jim Crane in 1993 & Is Involved in the Arts Communities of Houston & Nantucket
An article on Jim Crane in the Houston Press reports that he “met Dallas native Francigene ‘Franci’ Neely Beck, an attorney with an influential Houston civil firm, and married her in 1993.” On LinkedIn, Franci Neely Crane calls herself an “Independent Non-Profit Organization Management Professional.”
According to the Houston Arts Fair, “Franci Neely graduated with high honors from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. She was a business litigator for over twenty years and, until her retirement from active law practice, a partner at Susman Godfrey L.L.P.”
The short bio adds, “These days, Franci spends much of her time as a community volunteer and philanthropist. She is an ardent champion of the arts, sitting on the boards of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Houston Grand Opera; The Menil Foundation; and the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. A former Chair and President of the Board, Franci currently chairs the Presidents Council of Inprint, which raises money to enhance the literary life of Houston. She was the founding chair of the HGOco Committee (education and outreach) of the Houston Grand Opera and co-chairs the Film and Arts of the Islamic World Subcommittees of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.”
She is a fan of Nantucket, saying of it, “The water is still warm and the skies have a clarity I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world.”
A trust in her name owns a multi-million dollar home in Nantucket. A foundation in her name has sponsored various film and art initiatives there.
In 2017, Crane married a woman named Whitney Wheeler.