Posted on | November 12, 2012 | 17 Comments
Anti-virus software pioneer John McAfee once had what is colloquially known as “f–k you money,” but suffered a reversal of fortune:
John McAfee, an entrepreneur who founded the antivirus software company that bears his name, is now worth about $4 million, from a peak of more than $100 million. Mr. McAfee will soon auction off his last big property because he needs cash to pay his bills after having been caught off guard by the simultaneous crash in real estate and stocks.
“I had no clue,” he said, “that there would be this tandem collapse.”
What’s an erstwhile multimillionaire to do? Move to Belize!
He has spent the intervening years building a new life for himself on the coast of Central America. He has just auctioned off the last of his sprawling properties back in the United States and sold or given away many of his possessions. He has taken a huge financial hit, he says, but that’s okay. He has enough to fund his latest passion, his gift to the future: developing new kinds of antibiotics from herbs found deep in the rain forests of Belize. . . .
He describes the economic injustice of the developing world, the imbalances of education and capital, and how tapping the biodiversity of the rain forest for natural cures will help address those problems. “The product is something the world desperately needs, or will need, within a few years,” he says, “as our last lines of antibiotic defense are breached by the ever-growing ranks of drug-resistant bacteria.”
Hmmmm. Does this sound vaguely . . . flaky? Yeah, it sure does. And when the going gets flaky, the flaky get going:
As dawn broke over the interior of Belize on April 30, an elite team of 42 police and soldiers, including members of the country’s SWAT team and Special Forces, converged on a compound on the banks of a jungle river. Within, all was quiet. The police called out through a bullhorn that they were there looking for illegal firearms and narcotics, then stormed in, breaking open doors with sledgehammers, handcuffing four security guards, and shooting a guard dog dead. The compound’s owner, a 67-year-old white American man, emerged bleary-eyed from his bedroom with a 17-year-old Belizean girl. The police cuffed him and took him away, along with his guards.
Inside, the cops found $20,000 in cash, a lab stocked with chemistry equipment, and a small armory’s worth of firearms: seven pump-action shotguns, one single-action shotgun, two 9-mm. pistols, 270 shotgun cartridges, 30 9-mm. pistol rounds, and twenty .38 rounds. Vexingly for the police, all of this was actually legal. The guns were licensed and the lab appeared not to be manufacturing drugs but an herbal antibacterial compound.
After fourteen hours, the police let the man and his employees go, but remained convinced they had missed something. Why else would a wealthy American playboy hole himself up out here, far from the tourist zone on the coast, by a navigable river that happened to connect, twenty miles downstream, with a remote corner of the Mexican border? Why else would he hire, as head of security, a rogue cop who’d once plotted to steal guns from the police and sell them to drug traffickers?
You really should read the whole thing, including the part about how McAfee, 66, moved to Belize with his 28-year-old girlfriend (whom he started dating when she was still a teenager) and then developed a business partnership with a 31-year-old Harvard biologist, Allison Adonizio, who rebuffed his crude and weird advances:
He showed her websites devoted to various kinds of outré kink, and became increasingly open, when his girlfriend Irwin was out of town, about bringing prostitutes off the street and into his bedroom. (One day Adonizio came upon “literally a garbage bag full of Viagra.”) After she’d broken up with a boyfriend on the mainland, “he kept trying to set me up with these weird friends that were into polyamory and crazy kinky stuff,” she said. “He tried to convince me that love doesn’t exist, so I might as well just give in and sleep with all these crazy circus folk.” He liked to hint that he had connections to dangerous criminals, implying that he could have her ex-boyfriend killed: “I have someone who can take care of that,” he told her.
When at last she decided she’d had enough and asked McAfee to buy out her share of the company, he exploded, she says, screaming and lunging at her. She fled and locked herself in the lab. McAfee pounded on the door and shouted obscenities. Afraid for her safety, Adonizio called a friend to escort her off the property. The next day, she boarded a flight back home to Pennsylvania. . . .
“As soon as I started questioning his motives, he turned on me and became a horrible, horrible person, controlling, manipulative and dangerous,” she told me. “I’m thankful that I got out with my life.”
In the wake of Adonizio’s departure, McAfee grew more isolated. An investor who’d wanted to back the anti-quorum-sensing venture backed away. A joint-venture agreement with Dr. Louis Zabaneh, one of the country’s most powerful men, fell apart. The hangers-on drifted away. After 14 years, Irwin left him.
So, if you were a gambler, would you bet that things got better or worse after that? If you bet on “worse,” you’re a winner:
Antivirus pioneer John McAfee is on the run from murder charges, Belize police say. According to Marco Vidal, head of the national police force’s Gang Suppression Unit, McAfee is a prime suspect in the murder of American expatriate Gregory Faull, who was gunned down Saturday night at his home in San Pedro Town on the island of Ambergris Caye.
The report goes on to explain McAfee’s downward spiral into oblivion:
In July of 2010, shortly before Allison Adonizio pulled the plug on their quorum-sensing project and fled the country, McAfee began posting on a drug-focused Russian-hosted message board called Bluelight about his attempts to purify the psychoactive compounds colloquially known as “bath salts.”
Writing under the name “stuffmonger,” a handle he has used on other online message boards, McAfee posted more than 200 times over the next nine months about his ongoing quest to purify psychoactive drugs from compounds commercially available over the internet. “I’m a huge fan of MDPV,” he wrote. “I think it’s the finest drug ever conceived, not just for the indescribable hypersexuality, but also for the smooth euphoria and mild comedown.”
Elsewhere, he described his pursuit of “super perv powder” and warned about the dangers of handling the freebase version of the drug: “I had visual and auditory hallucinations and the worst paranoia of my life.” He recommended that the most effective way to take a dose is via rectal insertion . . .
Ah, so the software genius and former multimillionaire becomes a crazed and lonely recluse in a Central American jungle, shoving weird hallucinogenic drugs up his bunghole, suffers some kind of psychotic breakdown, shoots a man and takes it on the run, an international fugitive wanted on a murder charge.
They say that the difference between “crazy” and “eccentric” is that eccentric people are rich. John McAfee used to be eccentric.