Jeff Wise of Fast Company went to Belize to profile 64-year-old John McAfee, the eccentric bad-boy founder of the McAffee antivirus company. With at least five civil lawsuits hounding him, McAfee claims he's lost 96% of his fortune, and is now interested in finding plant-based medicines for a variety of ailments, including libido-boosters for women. Wise isn't so sure McAfee is as broke as he claims, however.
I arrive in Belize in late January to find McAfee living in much the same style as he had been in New Mexico, surrounded by a fluctuating entourage of a dozen or so people, several of them former Sky Gypsies I'd met in Rodeo. It turned out he'd been busy since his reported financial catastrophe. He'd started a high-speed ferry company, an Internet-services company, a rickshaw company, a water-sports facility, and, with his leftover trikes, an aerial-tour company. He doesn't technically own these companies, he adds: "I give them all away to local people." He doesn't even own his boat, a 42-foot-long Lagoon 420 catamaran worth about $450,000. "Long-term lease," he explains.
What is important, he assures me, is his commitment to developing the quorum-sensing drugs. "For 20 years, I played," he says, "and now I'm serious about doing something positive." McAfee tells me he spent $400,000 building four greenhouses on Ambergris Caye, paying to have all the materials, including every cubic foot of soil, shipped over from the mainland. When the plants proved too fragile for their man-made home, he bought 22 acres of jungle in the country's interior and hired men to clear out the undergrowth so that the plants could seed themselves and grow in the shade of the canopy. McAfee still had no proof that his extracts worked, or that he could grow the plants at all, but he had already ordered workmen to start excavating a dock where a barge could be unloaded. Nearby, a thatched-roof "processing lab" stood half-completed.
Earlier today, John McAfee added a comment to the article at the Fast Company website disputing a couple of claims made by Wise in the article.