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Billy McFarland (entrepreneur)

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Billy McFarland
Billy McFarland Entrepreneur 2014 (cropped).jpg
Born William McFarland
1991 (age 26–27)
New York, New York, US
Residence New Jersey, US
Nationality American
Education Bucknell University (less than one year)
Occupation Founder and CEO, Fyre Media

William Z. McFarland (born 1991)[1] is an American criminal and former business owner who was the founder and CEO of three companies: Spling, Magnises, and Fyre Media. McFarland was placed under arrest on June 30, 2017, and charged with wire fraud in Manhattan federal court related to the organization of the Fyre Festival to promote the Fyre music booking app.[2][3]

Early life and education

McFarland was born in New York City[4] and raised in the Short Hills section of Millburn, New Jersey.[5] His parents are real estate developers.[6] At the age of 13, he founded his first company, an online outsourcing business that matched clients with designers.[1][5]

He briefly attended Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania,[5][7] where he studied computer engineering for a period of less than nine months.[8]


McFarland dropped out of college toward the end of his freshman year and founded the online ad platform Spling, where, as of July 2015, he continued to be the CEO.[5][9]

In August 2013, McFarland founded Magnises,[10][11] aiming to create an exclusive "black card" with social perks such as club membership, targeted at status-oriented millennials in certain big cities.[1][12][13][14] McFarland also launched Fyre Media Inc., the parent company of the Fyre Festival. In a term sheet sent to investors, Fyre Media claimed to be worth $90 million.[15] By contrast, authorities allege the company did only about $60,000 in business.[16]

On July 23, 2018, The New York Post reported that New York socialite Anna Delvey may have grifted four months of free lodging at the SoHo loft owned by McFarland. The loft was also used as the headquarters for the defunct millennial black credit card company, Magnises.[17][18]

Fyre Festival

McFarland founded Fyre Media, and publicized a luxury music festival called Fyre Festival to promote the Fyre music booking app.[2] The festival, to be held in April 2017, experienced a number of serious management, administration and misrepresentation issues and was canceled after guests had begun to arrive.[19] The festival subsequently became the focus of federal investigations and multiple lawsuits.[20] McFarland borrowed as much as $7 million in an effort to fund the festival, taking one loan with an effective annualized rate of 120 percent.[21] The lender sued, alleging McFarland defaulted on the loan.

Fraud conviction

On May 1, 2017, Fyre Festival Organizers Billy McFarland and Ja Rule were sued for $100 million in a class action lawsuit in relation to the failed Fyre festival which left attendees stranded on the island without basic provisions.[22] In addition to the class action lawsuit filed in May 2017, six federal and four individual lawsuits were filed in relation to the scheme.[23] McFarland was arrested by federal agents on June 30, 2017, and charged with wire fraud in relation to Fyre and Fyre Festival. He was released on $300,000 bail on July 1.[24] McFarland faces up to four years and nine months under U.S. sentencing guidelines, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristy Greenberg. She added that McFarland's short but eventful career showed a "pattern of deception" and "overpromising luxury experiences that were not delivered". In July 2017 McFarland was represented by a public defender at a bail hearing after his previous legal team "had not been paid enough to continue to represent him".[24] McFarland later hired the private firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner as representation.[25]

In March 2018, MacFarland pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud and admitted to using fake documents to attract investors to put more than $26 million (£18.7m) into his company.[26] He agreed to forfeit over $26 million and is awaiting sentencing on June 21, 2018.[27] On June 12, 2018, McFarland was charged with selling fraudulent tickets to events such as the Met Gala, Burning Man and Coachella while out on bail.[28]


  1. ^ a b c Alyson Penn, “New Black Card Comes With One Big Perk – A New York City Social Life,” Business Insider, June 11, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Gabrielle Bluestone (April 29, 2017). "A National Punchline". Vice. Retrieved May 1, 2017. 
  3. ^ Madeline Stone (1970-01-01). "The organizer of the doomed Fyre festival was previously accused of scamming millennials with promises of Hamilton tickets and trips to Cuba". Retrieved 2017-04-28. 
  4. ^ “You should know… Magnises,” Scene, May 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d Doree Lewak, “The college dropout behind NYC’s most exclusive credit card,” New York Post, July 5, 2014.
  6. ^ “Fyre Festival Organizer Released on $300,000 Bail,” New York Times, July 1, 2017.
  7. ^ “Black card for millennials,” Fox Business, July 11, 2014.
  8. ^ Christopher Wink, “Spling founder Billy McFarland: our investors are in New York City,” / Philly, March 6, 2012.
  9. ^ Madeline Stone, "A 23-year-old created a club for elite millennials where everyone gets a black card and parties in a New York City penthouse," Business Insider, July 17, 2015.
  10. ^ Carson Griffith, “Musicians Embrace Magnises, a Black Card for the Younger Set,” Billboard, March 18, 2014.
  11. ^ Julie Earle-Levine, “Techie creates starter ‘black card’ for 20-somethings,” New York Post, April 20, 2014.
  12. ^ Jeremy Glass, “Magnises: The Only Other Black Card You Need to Know About,” Supercompressor, April 18, 2014.
  13. ^ “The Mastermind Behind NYC’s Newest Black Card,” Bloomberg TV, August 19, 2014.
  14. ^ “Millennials lacking financial literacy?” Fox Business, August 14, 2014.
  15. ^ "Fyre Festival $100 Million Lawsuit Targets Investors Behind the Scenes". 2017-05-09. Retrieved 2017-08-07. 
  16. ^ "Fyre Festival Founder McFarland Released on Bail to Return Home". 2017-07-01. Retrieved 2017-08-07. 
  17. ^ Ryan, Lisa (2018-07-23). "Anna Delvey May Have Scammed the Fyre Festival Founder". The Cut. New York. Retrieved 2018-07-24. 
  18. ^ Siegler, Mara (2018-07-23). "Wannabe socialite swindler may have bilked Fyre Festival fraudster". New York Post. Retrieved 2018-07-24. 
  19. ^ Joe Coscarelli, "Fyre Festival, a Luxury Music Weekend, Crumbles in the Bahamas," New York Times, April 28, 2017.
  20. ^ Joe Coscarelli, Melena Ryzik and Ben Sisario (21 May 2017). "In Wreckage of the Fyre Festival, Fury, Lawsuits and an Inquiry". The New York Times. Retrieved May 22, 2017. 
  21. ^ "Fyre Festival Was Buried Under Millions in Debt Before It Even Began". 2017-05-15. Retrieved 2017-08-07. 
  22. ^ Entertainment, Legal. "Fyre Festival Organizers Get Hit With A $100 Million Lawsuit". Retrieved 29 July 2017. 
  23. ^ Parisi, Paula (26 May 2017). "Fyre Festival Lawsuits Advance on Dual Civil, Criminal Tracks". Retrieved 29 July 2017. 
  24. ^ a b Ben Sisario (July 1, 2017). "Fyre Festival Organizer Released on $300,000 Bail". New York Times. Retrieved 25 July 2018. 
  25. ^ Anna Gaca (3 October 2017). "Fyre Festival's Billy McFarland Pleads Not Guilty to Wire Fraud". Spin. Retrieved 25 July 2018. 
  26. ^ "Fyre Festival: Billy McFarland admits fraud over 'luxury' event". BBC News. 7 March 2018. 
  27. ^ Wang, Christine (2018-03-06). "Billy McFarland, organizer of disastrous Fyre Festival, pleads guilty to misleading investors". Retrieved 2018-03-06. 
  28. ^ Stevens, Matt (12 June 2018). "Fyre Festival Organizer Sold Fake Tickets While Out on Bail, U.S. Says". New York Times. Retrieved 13 June 2018.