What is Billy McFarland’s net worth?
Billy McFarland is an American convicted felon and former CEO who has a net worth of -$26 million. Billy McFarland is most famous for organizing the disastrous Fyre Festival which was supposed to be held in April 2017 but turned into one of the most infamous concert disasters in history. Due to the ultimately aborted event, which defrauded investors of millions and left many attendees stranded, he was arrested and charged with wire fraud and sentenced to six years in prison. McFarland was released in early 2022 after serving just over four years.
In the wake of the disastrous festival, Billy and his partner, rapper Ja Rule, were quickly sued for $100 million.
In March 2018 Billy pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud in federal court. He admitted to using fake documents to secure $26 million in funding. He eventually agreed to pay $26 million in restitution and was sentenced to six years in prison.
Billy was released from prison in May 2022.
Early Life and Education
Billy McFarland was born in 1991 in New York City, New York and was raised by his real-estate developer parents in a project in Millburn, New Jersey. There, he went to the Pingry School, from which he graduated in 2010. For his higher education, McFarland enrolled at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, but ended up dropping out toward the end of his freshman year.
After leaving college, McFarland founded the online advertising platform Spling, which he served as the CEO of. The company proved to be short-lived. Following this, McFarland co-founded the card-based membership club Magnises with rapper Ja Rule. Although the card was marketed to millennials as being comparable to American Express’s Black Card,’ Magnise’s card was not in fact a charge card, and could only be used it to make purchases by linking it to a preexisting credit card account. The company ceased operations in 2017, after which it was retroactively considered a scam.
With Ja Rule, McFarland co-founded the Fyre Festival in 2017. Advertised as a luxury music festival, it was meant to promote a music talent book application for the parent company Fyre Media.
Not long after launching the concept for Fyre Festival, McFarland claimed in a letter sent to potential investors that the concert business was already worth $90 million. He justified that valuation by alleging that the company had received millions of sponsorship dollars and ticket sales. Authorities would later prove that at that point the company had generated just $57,000 in revenue.
The festival was scheduled to take place in the spring on the island of Great Exuma in the Bahamas. Numerous models and social media influencers took to Instagram to advertise the event, including Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Emily Ratajkowski, and Bella Hadid, all of whom were also expected to attend.
Fyre Festival was advertised as a custom-built tropical paradise featuring glamorous models where guests would stay in luxury villas on a private island eating meals prepared by 5-star chefs. VIP tickets to the festival cost $49,000. The average day pass cost $450.
The event went viral when ticket holders arrived on the island to find a disorganized third world disaster. Before it could begin, myriad administration and management issues hobbled its progress. Having paid hundreds of thousands of dollars, guests arrived to tents and boxed sandwiches instead of luxury villas and gourmet dishes. There were also a slew of problems related to security, medical services, staffing, and talent relations. The festival was ultimately postponed after the first night, with attendees being sent back to Miami, Florida.
Hulu Documentary Payday
Billy appeared in Hulu’s January 2019 documentary “Fyre Fraud”. He reportedly was approached by Netflix to appear in their version of a Fyre documentary but Netflix declined when he asked to be paid. Hulu reportedly ended up paying Billy $250,000.
(Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
As a result of the festival debacle – which saw a number of attendees stranded in the Bahamas when many flights back to Miami were canceled – McFarland and co-organizer Ja Rule were sued in a $100 million class-action lawsuit. On top of that lawsuit, six federal and four individual suits were also filed. In June of 2017, McFarland was arrested and charged with wire fraud; he was released on July 1 on $300,000 bail. However, while on bail, he continued to commit fraud via a new scam known as NYC VIP, which he used to sell fraudulent tickets to events such as the Met Gala and Coachella.
Before a federal court in Manhattan in March of 2018, McFarland pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud. Additionally, he conceded to using fraudulent documents to draw investors to his company. As punishment, McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison and was ordered to pay $26 million in restitution. In the spring of 2020, he requested compassionate release from prison in order to avoid contracting COVID-19, arguing that the virus posed an added threat to him due to his asthma. The request was ultimately denied. McFarland was eventually moved to the RRM New York facility, where he tested positive for COVID-19. In the spring of 2022, he was released early from prison and sent to a halfway house ahead of his release in August.
The massive logistical failure of the Fyre Festival and its legal repercussions for McFarland became the catalyst for two documentary films released in early 2019. The first was Hulu’s “Fyre Fraud,” written and directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason. The film consists of testimony from victims of the festival, as well as from whistleblowers and other insiders. Just days later, Netflix released “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened,” which was directed by Chris Smith. Notably, the film was co-produced by Jerry Media, the same social media company that promoted the Fyre Festival and helped cover up its fraudulence. Both the Hulu and Netflix documentaries earned positive reviews from critics, and both also received Emmy Award nominations.