How Fear Made John McAfee Rich. It Also Ruined Him

It was kind of all said in the tattoo. When a forceful client talked his way into Santiago Cuevas’ Scorpio Tattoo business in Cambrils, a seaside town on the Spanish Mediterranean coast, it was already closed for the 2019 holiday season. The man had a clear vision in mind: a small “$WHACKD” tattoo over the area directly above his right bicep. According to him, it represented the need “to know that I’m living.” For about an hour, as the job took place, Cuevas and the man had a friendly conversation. Cuevas remembers, “He never revealed his identity to me.” The following year, I learned that.

It was John McAfee, a pioneer in the software industry and rumored millionaire, who had been broke and on the run for more than ten years by the time he was seated in Cuevas’ chair. He was a successful computer entrepreneur in the 1980s and 1990s, mentioned in the same language as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates in some circles. He successfully convinced the developing personal computer sector to outsource its defenses to him after first convincing them to fear security gaps in their systems. He cashed out at the end of that time and started working on rich-guy vanity projects. Then, in the twenty-first century, his life started to fall apart. He was mentioned in a claim for wrongful death. His wealth appeared to disappear over night. As he fled Belize, he encountered. On the run in Belize, he faced accusations of rape and murder. And by the time he met Cuevas in late 2019, he’d begun his final run from the law.

McAfee was prone to outlandish hype and conspiracies. In addition to the hakuna matata explanation he told Cuevas, $WHACKD was a nod to his cryptocurrency token and a warning to truthers that a murderous plot against him was afoot. McAfee likened himself to infamous banker Jeffrey Epstein, who passed away in custody while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges. In October 2020, he tweeted, “Know that if I hang myself, a la Epstein, it will be no fault of mine. On a global warrant for tax evasion, immigration agents at Barcelona’s El Prat Airport detained him that same month and imprisoned him without bail. He was discovered hanging on June 23, 2021, several hours after being told of his extradition to the US. The Spanish authorities ruled his death a suicide. To McAfee’s followers, Cuevas’s tattoo became a totem, proof that powerful people had wanted to silence him and he wouldn’t go quietly.

McAfee never adopted that approach. He made himself the center of attention, regardless of how crazy the other characters surrounding him were. He publicly drank mountains of drugs and drink, but there was also an unmistakable fascination about him that contributed to this. Jen McAfee’s friend and attorney Joy Athanasiou claims that because of his entourage and followers, McAfee attained cult-like status.

McAfee speaking at a crypto conference in Phuket, Thailand, in 2018.Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg

Additionally, McAfee lied frequently, perhaps compulsively, which made it challenging to understand his frequently odd final years. His close friends and coworkers remember him as a mystery who could change from being lucid and urbane to paranoid and even crazy in a matter of seconds.

“It was like working for Stalin or Hitler or something,” says Jimmy Watson Jr., McAfee’s former bodyguard and business partner. “He was always watching me and watching everybody.”

“I never trusted him ever,” says Barbara Doepke, McAfee’s ex-fiancée. “We’d go to a restaurant, and he could be in the back with the waitress, f—ing her in the bathroom.”

Jen McAfee says her dad was “not the type of person you want in charge of your own biography.”

Everyone who spoke to Bloomberg Businessweek for this article who was a part of McAfee’s inner circle had a different theory about just who he was. The common theme across the good and bad periods, though, is paranoia, which goes along with his propensity for hyperbole. He made his money off of it: The billion-dollar cybersecurity market plays on anxieties that frequently turn out to be overstated. Anyone can take credit for that model, including McAfee.

McAfee was a Silicon Valley tycoon, a party animal, a spiritual guru, a wanted man on a global scale, the father of Bitcoin and cybersecurity, and an alleged rapist and killer. He also evolved into a sort of QAnon-style beacon of deception and deceit as his story grew darker. He occasionally stated that he was trying to create a whole alternate reality. No matter his wealth or charisma, though, there were some truths he couldn’t outrun.

When McAfee recounted his own life, he started with the brutal alcoholism of his father. He stated, “Nobody has an ideal existence,” in an interview with ABC News from 2017. Children included. During World War II, his father served as an American soldier stationed in southwest England. McAfee was born to his British mother, Joan Williams, in 1945, just two weeks after V-J Day.

The family soon settled in Salem, Virginia after relocating to the US. When McAfee was fifteen years old, his father committed suicide by shooting himself, but not before abusing him and his mother. Fran, McAfee’s first wife, said that his father’s cruelty haunted him. She claims that John had a very explosive temper. It is a result of what occurred to him during those years. To read further Click Here

Source: Bloomberg


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