You’ll quickly notice that this is not your usual ‘downfall’ story, not just because it’s so weird (I mean the guy claimed to have 47 children) but because at the end of the day, John McAfee was still way off.
John McAfee is a man of many talents (if you can call them that. He invented the first modern antivirus software, which was called “McAfee.”
At the same time, he was also a successful businessman who built up multiple tech companies and became immensely wealthy doing it.
However, his life took an unexpected turn after he fled Belize under suspicion of murder: at one point he lived in a tent in the jungle while on the run from authorities there and that’s not even half of it.
So let’s take a deeper dive into the life of one of the most eccentric tech personalities in recent memory.
John McAfee was born on September 18 in the UK although his parents later moved to Virginia. His father was an alcoholic and abusive towards his mother so you can imagine what kind of childhood this made for.
For college, he stayed close to home and opted for Roanoke College. It is here where he launched his first business, selling magazines.
The magazines themselves were free but the customers had to pay for the shipping and handling fees, a business model which we can assume Amazon later flipped on its head.
He made quite a pretty penny from this unorthodox venture, money which was subsequently wasted (pun intended) on alcohol.
After graduation, he started his grad school at Northeast Louisiana State but was booted out after it was discovered he had a sexual relationship with one of his undergraduate students.
He then got a job at a company that developed punch-card systems. The job taught him the basics of computing and this helped him land a new job at Missouri Pacific Railroad where he used his newfound expertise to help calibrate train schedules.
This is about the time when he started experimenting with all sorts of drugs, particularly psychedelics.
After bouncing around in a bunch of companies and abusing more drugs, he decided to clean up his act.
Around this time, he read about computer viruses and decided to start his own company to identify ways to combat them.
Making a fortune in cybersecurity.
John McAfee was a pioneer in the field of cybersecurity. He founded McAfee Associates, which was later sold to Intel for $7.6 billion in 2010.
The company took off, its growth bolstered by a virus called Michelangelo that spread around in the early 90s.
At that time most people didn’t even know what antivirus software was. Michelangelo changed that and made McAfee into a multimillion-dollar business.
In addition to being an expert at protecting computers from viruses and malware, McAfee was also an advocate for privacy rights.
In fact, it’s this very need for privacy that led him to resign from McAfee in 1994. Two years later, he sold his shares, which saw him pocket about $100 million.
After resigning, McAfee kept a relatively low profile, investing in tech startups and giving a few talks and lectures here and there.
The financial crisis of 2008 caught up with him though and caused his fortune to shrink to $4 million and he auctioned off most of his real estate as a result.
He moved to Belize, where he ran into trouble with the law.
He, later on, moved to Belize where he bought an oceanfront estate to kickstart some kind of bacteria project.
Living next to McAfee in Belize was an American named George Faull. Faull reportedly migrated to Belize for some peace and quiet which we can imagine was quite scarce being neighbors with John McAfee and all so the two didn’t get along.
McAfee was found dead by gunshot in late 2012 and just like that, McAfee was a fugitive, wanted for questioning in a murder case.
He was arrested on suspicion of possessing illegal firearms and released after questioning.
Bro then fled to Guatemala, where he was arrested again on charges of entering the country illegally.
John McAfee spent four days in jail before being released on bail and allowed to stay while awaiting trial on immigration charges–but not before offering his services as an advisor on cybersecurity issues at no cost (except perhaps some publicity).
While in detention, McAfee faked a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. It was caught that he was faking when he asked a nurse not to undress him in front of the press. Ultimately he was sent back to the United States.
John McAfee made the news numerous times after returning to the US. However, the most prolific of these media appearances was when he uploaded a video titled “How To Uninstall McAfee Antivirus”.
The video showed him surrounded by scantily-dressed women, guns, and several signs of drug use (they made fun of this in the HBO series, Silicon Valley).
Even more startling than the video’s setting was its message. John McAfee was publicly denouncing the software that he himself had invented.
He ran for president.
In 2016, he ran for president of the United States as a libertarian. His campaign slogan was “Privacy, Freedom and Technology” and sometimes he quoted Steve Jobs’ “here’s to the crazy ones” speech.
He went on shows like Larry King Live that year and again in 2020 (and you thought Kanye was the most unusual candidate). He didn’t get very far: he only got 1% of the vote and dropped out before election day.
Bro lost again in 2020.
Crypto and fraud
After the 2016 election, McAfee became a vocal advocate for crypto (as did many people at that time), particularly bitcoin.
He famously said that he would eat his penis on live TV if bitcoin didn’t go all the way up to $1 million by the end of 2020.
John also promoted crypto on Twitter. The DOJ later indicted McAfee on charges of tax evasion for money earned from crypto-related projects. The SEC also charged him for promoting several initial coin offerings or ICOs for short without disclosing that he was being paid for it.
His final days
In October 2020 he was arrested in Spain. Coincidentally, he was cleared of all murder charges.
However, he was still on the hook for the fraud charges so the Spanish government tried to extradite him to the US. McAfee was found dead in his cell some hours later (suspected suicide).
Some die-hard McAfee fans think this was an assassination but no light has been shed on the matter. His widow, Janice has started a petition to bring his remains back to the US for another autopsy.
There you have it folks, the downfall of what others may call a legend!
Tech-wise, he definitely has his name on the hall of fame. If you use a Windows machine, you probably know about the McAfee antivirus and that makes him a hero to Cybergeeks.
Now that’s a movie lifestyle, it would make a good story for the grandkids.
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