John McAfee, whose McAfee antivirus software was a go-to standard in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but was later overshadowed by his globe-trotting wild activities, died in a Barcelona jail cell Wednesday. His death at age 75 was an apparent suicide, authorities claimed.
McAfee was found dead just hours after a Spanish court approved his extradition to the US to face charges for failing to file taxes from 2014-2018.
A larger-than-life character whose outrageous pronouncements and antics inspired numerous film and TV projects, McAfee in his later life was buoyed by his security software fortune and his early investments in cryptocurrency. He became a global nomad, living in several countries and traveling the world on a yacht while dodging numerous law authorities in the US, Central America, and the Caribbean.
McAfee’s body was reportedly discovered at the Brians 2 penitentiary in northeastern Spain, where efforts to revive him failed.
“A judicial delegation has arrived to investigate the causes of death,” the statement from the Catalan government said, adding that “everything points to death by suicide.”
McAfee was arrested last October at Barcelona’s international airport and had been held since then while awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings. He had been charged that month in Tennessee with evading taxes for failing to report income.
Authorities alleged McAfee made millions from promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting work, speaking engagements and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary, but did not file US returns. The criminal charges carried a potential prison sentence of up to 30 years.
Hollywood has long been fascinated with McAfee’s story. Projects involving Michael Keaton, Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Scott Alexander and Larry Karazewski, Warner Bros., Spike TV and more were all in development at one time or another.
The only one that apparently made it to public view so far is Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee, a Showtime Networks documentary from 2016.
A billionaire after selling his self-named antivirus software company for $7.68 billion in 2011 to Intel (which quickly moved to disassociate itself with him, even though he had stopped being active in 1994), McAfee was viewed as something of an oracle in the tech world. He was in constant demand as a speaker, unafraid to throw bombs and make outrageous statements.
He had a short-lived notion to run for US president in 2020 as part of the Libertarian party, and infamously vowed to consume his own penis on live television if the price of bitcoin did not reach $1 million by the end of 2020. He later claimed that he was only trying to onboard new investors into the cryptocurrency.
After he left McAfee, the entrepreneur was involve in the companies Tribal Voice (makers of the PowWow chat program), QuorumEx and Future Tense Central, and was part of the leadership for Everykey, MGT Capital Investments and Luxcore among others.
He also dabbled in smartphone apps, yoga, and herbal antibiotics. He lived in Belize for a number of years, but had to leave the country after being investigated for his alleged involvement in a murder, for which he was never charged.
McAfee also was active on social media, and was arrested in July 2019 in the Dominican Republic after he and five others were suspected of traveling on a yacht carrying high-caliber weapons, ammunition, and military-style gear.
McAfee argued that this week’s attempt to extradite him to the US was politically motivated, and that he would be imprisoned for what amounted to a life sentence if returned. His case was open for appeal and also required the Spanish Cabinet to approve of it.
Born in England’s Gloucestershire in 1945 as John David McAfee, he started McAfee Associates in 1987 by infecting his own computer with a virus and writing a program to eliminate it. Thus was born one of the major security software inventions of that era.
McAfee is survive by his wife, Janice McAfee. The last post from his Twitter account was a retweet of a Father’s Day message from her.
“These eight months John has spent in prison in Spain have been especially hard on his overall health both mentally and physically, as well as financially, but he is undeterred from continuing to speak truth to power,” it said.