John McAfee—the antivirus tycoon whose eccentric and often illegal antics on yachts and in tropical rain forests came to define him in later years—took his own life in a Spanish prison cell shortly after suffering a major defeat in his fight against extradition to the US. He was 75.
According to El Pais, Reuters, and the AP, prison personnel found McAfee dead in his cell, by two accounts after he hanged himself. Personnel provided emergency medical services but were unable to save his life.
The reports came hours after revelations surfaced that McAfee suffered a crushing defeat in his bid to avoid extradition to the US to face charges that could carry decades in prison. Federal prosecutors filed one indictment in March and another in October. The first alleged a cryptocurrency pump-and-dump scheme and the latter tax evasion on millions of dollars in income.
Long, strange trip
In 1987 McAfee founded McAfee Associates, a software company that produced one of the first commercial antivirus products. The entrepreneur ran the company until 1994, when he resigned. By the time McAfee as a company was purchased by Intel for what at the time was the astounding price of $7.78 billion, McAfee the man had already sold his entire stake in the company.
In the mid 1990s, he founded a company that launched PowWow, one of the Internet’s first instant messaging and social networking apps that arguably was ahead of its time. In 2000, he invested in firewall-maker ZoneAlarm and joined the company’s board of directors.
By 2009, McAfee’s finances were faltering, dropping from a peak of more than $100 million to $4 million. He continued to dabble in new and highly questionable business ventures, including a maker of herbal-based antibiotics and a would-be producer of a $100 ‘anti-NSA’ device called D-Central. The offering eventually became available as an Android app on Google Play.
Around the same time, McAfee faced several legal charges. They included him being under suspicion for the 2012 murder of McAfee’s neighbor in Belize, an event that prompted him to flee the country. McAfee’s odyssey with the country’s legal system played out on the Internet over the next 14 months, culminating in this blockbuster account.
McAfee was also reported to be living and sleeping with a naked 17-year-old girl in the weeks leading up to the 2012 Belize murder he was charged with.
McAfee was arrested in October at a Barcelona airport after an international manhunt finally closed in on him. He had been fighting extradition ever since. On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the extradition the US was seeking was approved by the high court in Spain. The decision signaled that he was likely to lose in his fight to evade US prosecutors.