Billy McFarland (entrepreneur)
1991 (age 26–27)
New York, New York, US
|Residence||New Jersey, US|
|Education||Bucknell University (less than one year)|
|Occupation||Founder and CEO, Fyre Media|
William Z. McFarland (born 1991) 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.
Early life and education
McFarland was born in New York City and raised in the Short Hills section of Millburn, New Jersey. His parents are real estate developers. At the age of 13, he founded his first company, an online outsourcing business that matched clients with designers.
In August 2013, McFarland founded Magnises, aiming to create an exclusive "black card" with social perks such as club membership, targeted at status-oriented millennials in certain big cities. 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. By contrast, authorities allege the company did only about $60,000 in business.
McFarland founded Fyre Media, and publicized a luxury music festival called Fyre Festival to promote the Fyre music booking app. 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. The festival subsequently became the focus of federal investigations and multiple lawsuits. 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. The lender sued, alleging McFarland defaulted on the loan.
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. In addition to the class action lawsuit filed in May 2017, six federal and four individual lawsuits were filed in relation to the scheme. 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 2. 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". McFarland told the court that he was broke and could not afford a private attorney. McFarland later hired a private attorney. 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. He agreed to forfeit over $26 million and is awaiting sentencing on June 21, 2018. 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.
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- Entertainment, Legal. "Fyre Festival Organizers Get Hit With A $100 Million Lawsuit". Retrieved 29 July 2017.
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- "Fyre Festival Co-Founder Arrested, Charged With Fraud". Retrieved 29 July 2017.
- "Fyre Festival: Billy McFarland admits fraud over 'luxury' event". BBC News. 7 March 2018.
- Wang, Christine (2018-03-06). "Billy McFarland, organizer of disastrous Fyre Festival, pleads guilty to misleading investors". CNBC.com. Retrieved 2018-03-06.
- 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.