Billy McFarland is an American convicted felon and former co-founder of Fyre Festival. He was born in 1991 in New York City, United States. Billy’s birth name is William Z. McFarland, but he is known by his nickname, ‘Billy McFarland.’ Billy is the founder and CEO of Fyre Media and is known for co-founding the luxurious yet ill-fated music festival ‘Fyre Festival.’
Fyre Media scheduled the event in April 2017; unfortunately, it was aborted due to problems with security, food, logistics, understaffing, accommodations, and talent relations. The attendees of Fyre Festival sued Billy and his partner Ja Rule for $100 million in a class suit for defrauding them. Billy was arrested and sent to federal prison for six years. After serving four years, the court released him in late March 2022.
Billy McFarland has an estimated net worth of -$26 million as of 2023.His negative net worth is a result of defrauding investors of $27.4 million by marketing and selling tickets to the festival and other events;he has to pay off $26 million (£ 22.7 million) in return to those who he defrauded.
Billy McFarland Early Life
William Z. McFarland, aka Billy McFarland, was born in 1991 in New York City, United States. His father, Steven McFarland, and his mother, Irene McFarland, work as real estate developers in New Jersey. Billy grew up in West Sheffield Short Hills, Millburn, New Jersey. At the age of 13, he established an online hiring startup that connects clients with web designers. In 2010, Billy McFarland graduated from the Pingry School in New Jersey. Later, he received his high school education from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. However, Billy dropped out at the end of his freshman year.
Billy McFarland Career
After dropping out of college, Billy originated an online short-lived advertisement platform ‘Spling.’ TechCrunch reported Spling as a content-sharing network. In August 2013, Billy co-founded a card-based membership club ‘Magnises’ with $1.5 million in funds from investors. He created an exclusive ‘black card’ and marketed it to millennials by comparing it with big cities’ black cards. In 2017, the company stopped functioning and was declared a scam.
Later, he founded the parent company of Fyre Festival called ‘Fyre Media Inc.’ As per the sheet provided to investors, Fyre Media is worth $90 million. But higher authorities state that the company has generated only $60,000 in business. Vanity Fair, a monthly magazine called Billy ‘The poster boy for millennial scamming.’
In 2017, Billy McFarland founded and organized a music festival called ‘Fyre Festival.’ In Spring 2017, the festival was supposed to be held on the island of Great Exuma in the Bahamas. He aimed to advertise his Fyre music-booking application through this event. Celebrities, models, and social media influencers, including Kendal Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Hailey Baldwin, advertised the festival on their Instagram. Nevertheless, the festival turned into an epic failure due to major problems, including management, administration, and misrepresentation issues.
The guests were shown a custom-built tropical paradise that the organizers promised, with a stay in luxury villas and food prepared by 5-star Chefs on a private island. However, the situation was absurdly different when the guests arrived; they saw tents and were served pre-packaged sandwiches. Apart from this, they also faced security, medical services, staffing, and talent relations issues. Each VIP ticket of the festival cost $49,000, and the average day pass was $450. After spending a night at the event, guests flew back to Miami, Florida.
Following this disaster, U.S. federal investigations and numerous lawsuits started investigations. Billy McFarland borrowed around $7 million to fund the Fyre Festival but failed to pay the loan, and the lender sued him. He scammed investors for $27.4 million by marketing and selling the tickets for the festival.
In January 2019, Billy appeared in two documentaries about the Fyre Festival controversy. On 14 January 2019, Hulu released ‘Fyre Fraud’ featuring Billy McFarland, directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason. Billy also appeared in a Netflix documentary, ‘Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened’ directed by Chris Smith. As per the reports, Hulu paid Billy $250,000 to appear in their version of the Fyre documentary.
Billy McFarland Fraud Sentence
The stranded Fyre Festival attendees charged Billy McFarland and his partner Ja Rule on 1 May 2017 for $100 million in a class action lawsuit. Additionally, attendees filed 6 federal and 4 individual lawsuits related to the fraud. Federal agents arrested Billy McFarland on 30 June 2017 with wire fraud charges concerning the Fyre Festival. The court released Billy on bail of $300,000 on 1 July 2017.
During his bail, he committed another fraud with a plot called ‘NYC VIP Access.’ He scammed people by selling tickets for unannounced, high-profile events that the public could not attend, including the Met Gala. Netflix issued Billy’s fraud footage in their Fyre documentary.
Billy McFarland admitted his crime of wire fraud twice in March 2018 in federal court in Manhattan. Moreover, he confessed that he attracted investors by providing fake documents to make them invest $26 million in his company. He agreed to pay a penalty of $26 million. On 12 June 2018, Billy was charged with selling fake tickets for events, including Met Gala, Burning Man, and Coachella, while on bail.
Billy McFarland Imprisonment
Billy was convicted in federal prison for six years on 11 October 2018. While in prison, he tried to write a book with the help of voice notes and created a podcast with a prison phone. He was kept in solitary confinement as his punishment. During the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020, he appealed for compassionate release from the Federal Correctional Institution, Elkton, located in Lisbon, Ohio.
Billy McFarland requested a release to avoid the virus because he was asthmatic and had a higher chance of getting infected. Yet, FCI denied his request. In July 2020, his results came out COVID-19 positive in prison. Later, the court released Billy on 30 March 2022 and sent him to a halfway house. In September 2022, his house arrest ended.
Billy McFarland Post Imprisonment
In October 2022, Billy disclosed in a TikTok video and YouTube short that he plans to start a new business venture ‘PYRT.’ He announced further shared details regarding it in November 2022. The Government of the Bahamas took Billy McFarland as a fugitive and would not approve of any event associated with him. In April 2023, Billy announced on Twitter that ‘Fyre Festival II is finally happening.’
On 29 April 2023, Billy appeared as a small guest on a podcast called ‘Canceled.’ In this podcast, both McFarland and Tana Mongeau talked about their failed festivals. They also spoke about the hate and backlash they received from their fans for their ill-fated event. Moreover, the duo shared their plans for reorganizing Fyre Festival 2.
Billy McFarland stated “I saw what happens when you mess up and I cannot have that happen again because the second time there is no coming back from that.”
Billy McFarland Net Worth
As of 2023, Billy McFarland has an estimated net worth of -$26 million because of fraud.
Billy McFarland Income Source
Now if we look into his source of income, Billy McFarland has earned most of his wealth from his companies ‘Fyre Media Inc.’, and ‘Magnises.’ He frauded investors into investing in his company by showing fake documents. Billy also made money from his online advertising platform ‘Spling.’
Billy McFarland is an American convicted felon and former co-founder of Fyre Festival, whose net worth is -$26 million as of 2023. Billy is best known for organizing the ‘Fyre Festival,’ on the island of Great Exuma in the Bahamas, which was a huge disaster. He has earned most of his wealth from his company, Fyre Media Inc. and Magnises. Billy defrauded investors of $27.4 million by marketing and selling tickets. He served imprisonment for committing fraud to investors and the public.