John McAfee, the world-famous British-American tech mogul and conspiracy theorist, founded the company behind the popular antivirus software with his namesake. This was his most notable success, though the entrepreneur pursued several other ventures and lived a very public, controversial life. At the time of his death, John McAfee’s net worth was zero dollars, marking a complete drop from his $100 million fortune at the peak of his software career.

John McAfee lost the majority of his fortune due to bad investments, rampant spending, poor life choices, which eventually landed him in prison, where he died aged 75, reportedly by suicide (or murder if you believe him).

To learn more about how he created his wealth, as well as how he lost it before his death, keep reading.

John McAfee’s Net Worth Breakdown:

McAfee’s fortune fluctuated tremendously over the years, especially after leaving McAfee Associates. From this point forward, his life was filled with controversies, legal problems, and bad investments, all causing a drop in his fortune to the point where it was all seized. Based on our findings, McAfee’s net worth, which was once $100 million, had dropped to zero by the time of his death.

Asset or Income Source Contribution to Net Worth
McAfee Associates sale $100 million
Real estate -$19.3 million
Wrongful death lawsuit -$25 million
Salaries and other earnings Undisclosed
Total Net Worth $0

John McAfee Net Worth: Childhood, Education, and Personal Life

John David McAfee was born on September 18, 1945, in Cinderford, England, to a British mother and an American father. His father, Don McAfee was a soldier stationed at the Forest of Dean US Army base. Soon after his birth, the family returned to the US and John McAfee was raised in Salem, Virginia.

McAfee’s childhood was rather traumatic. His father was an abusive alcoholic who died by suicide John was fifteen years old, shooting himself with a gun. In a 2022 Netflix documentary on John McAfee’s life, it was alleged that he shot and killed his father after years of being beaten but staged the scene to make it look like a suicide.

john mcafee yearbook
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Young John McAfee studied at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, where he graduated in 1967 with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. Following this academic success, he studied mathematics at Northeast Louisiana State College, working towards a PhD. However, he was dating an undergraduate student at the school, which caused the university to expel him in 1968, meaning he couldn’t graduate.

In 2008, he finally got another degree, receiving an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Roanoke College, his alma mater.

John McAfee was married three times. His first wife was the woman he dated while studying for his doctorate, Fran, who was 18 years old at the time. In 1987, he married Judy, an American Airlines flight attendant, whom he divorced in 2002.

In 2012, the night after McAfee was deported to the United States from Guatemala, he solicited and slept with a sex worker whom he claimed to have saved from human traffickers, named Janice Dyson (now Janice McAfee). He dated her for nearly a year and married her in 2013.

John McAfee Net Worth: From Antivirus Pioneer and Millionaire to Broke Imprisoned Genius

Despite being expelled from school, McAfee showed great potential early in life. He began working at NASA straight out of college and proceeded to create a masterpiece in cybersecurity at the time, the popular antivirus software.

Let’s see how he got to this point.

Early Career

Following his college graduation, John McAfee spent approximately two years working as a programmer for NASA’s Institute for Space Studies in New York City. After leaving NASA, he landed a software designer role at Univac, before moving on to Xerox as their operating system architect.

In 1978, John McAfee decided to test the consulting waters, joining the consulting firm Computer Sciences Corporation as a software expert. He stayed there for another two years before he started working at Booz Allen Hamilton, another consulting firm until 1982.

The Founding and Sale of McAfee Associates

In the 1980s, McAfee was working for Lockheed – one of the biggest defense contractors in the world – but he decided to tackle a side project and simultaneously worked on a virus-combating software of his own. He got the idea from the Brain computer virus after receiving a copy.

In 1987, he decided to pursue his dream and focus entirely on his anti-virus software that detected viruses in computers and removed them automatically. He left his job and founded his own antivirus software company named McAfee Associates, selling the company’s antivirus software named “VirusScan”. The McAfee antivirus was the first such software brought to the market and distributed over the internet.

john mcafee computer virus
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By 1990, the former software consultant was managing a business that made $5 million in profit a year. It took him five years to incorporate the business in the state of Delaware. That same year, McAfee Associates had its initial public offering.

The McAfee antivirus tool was a major success soon after the business’ founding but, in 1994, the founder decided to resign from the business and sold his entire stake for $100 million. He initially stepped down as chief executive officer and remained with his company as the chief technical officer, but since 1994, he had no further involvement or stake in the business.

McAfee sold his business for a hefty sum and in 1997, following his leave, the business merged with Network General and formed Network Associates. Seven years later, the new owners renamed the business McAfee, Inc., and in 2010, Intel purchased the business in its entirety, though it maintained the branding separately for another four years.

In 2014, all McAfee-related products were marketed under the same name, Intel Security. Eventually, in 2017, the brand that was then known as McAfee Inc., split ownership between TPG Capital and Intel, gaining a new name McAfee, LLC.

Strangely enough, during the years following the sale, McAfee was the business’ most vocal critic. At one point, he urged consumers to uninstall the McAfee anti-virus software from their devices, talking about it as “bloatware.” He wasn’t far off as the software used invasive practices similar to those used by viruses it was supposed to be fighting off. When Intel announced they’d be changing the software’s name, he said:

 I am now everlastingly grateful to Intel for freeing me from this terrible association with the worst software on the planet.

In June 2013, McAfee shared a crazy parody video titled How to Uninstall McAfee Antivirus on his YouTube channel, publicly criticizing the software while being stripped by women and snorting white powder.

John McAfee Net Worth: Losing Everything

At one point and while at the helm of a very successful business, John McAfee grew bored of the software business. McAfee sold his entire stake for $100 million. If he had waited a few years and sold it in 2010 when the company was acquired by Intel, he would have been a billionaire.

This isn’t the worst part of the story, though. Even his $100 million fortune didn’t last long. He made a series of bad investments, including a major bet on Lehman Brothers’ bonds. The decision cost McAfee millions when the bank collapsed in the 2008 crash, forcing him to sell his assets for pennies on the dollar.

He lost the remaining of his fortune due to his many run-ins with the law, as well as poor spending practices (namely on drugs and sex workers) and other bad investments he made during the financial crisis.

Run-Ins with the Law

McAfee’s problems with the police began long before his incarceration. In April 2012, for instance, the Belize Police Department’s Gang Suppression Unit raided his property in Orange Walk Town and arrested him for unlicensed drug manufacturing and possession of an unlicensed weapon. However, he was released soon after without any charges.

November of the same year, the Belizean police made him a person of interest in a murder investigation of an American expatriate Gregory Viant Faull. The man was found dead in his home in November from a gunshot wound.

He was McAfee’s neighbor and, after he was questioned by the police, McAfee fled Belize and attempted to seek asylum in Guatemala City. However, on December 5, 2012, he was arrested for illegally entering Guatemala, and his request was denied.

A month before his death, Faull had filed a complaint against his neighbor McAfee, accusing him of failing to contain his vicious dogs. The day before his death, two of the dogs had been fed a poisoned tortilla.

During his time in the detention center in Guatemala, McAfee reportedly suffered from two minor heart attacks, as per ABC News, and he was consequently released in December and deported to the United States. He would later publicly share that he faked the heart attacks to buy himself some time for the attorney to file appeals that prevented his deportation to Belize.

A year later, in March 2021, McAfee was charged with “commodities and securities fraud conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, touting fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy”, for running a crypto fraud scheme with his bodyguard Jimmy Gale Watson Jr.

The two reportedly used his Twitter account to inflate the price of “alt-coin”, which McAfee then sold off after pumping it to $2 million. Authorities also stated that Watson and McAfee promoted the coins and concealed the fact that they were being paid by cryptocurrency issuers, and they earned $13 million from their scams.

A week before his death, McAfee tweeted from prison that he had no assets left as the US authorities seized it all:

McAfee’s Death

On 23 June 2021, John McAfee was found dead in his prison cell. This happened only a few hours after the Spanish National Court ordered his extradition to the US based on criminal charges filed in Tennessee by the US Department of Justice Tax Division.

According to the Catalan Justice Department, the investigation concluded that “he killed himself by hanging”, and the official autopsy confirmed this as a suicide.

Even with this official reporting, his death prompted a series of conspiracy theories and speculation. His wife Janice McAfee and his lawyer told reporters that he showed no signs of suicidal intent before his death. McAfee’s widow also publicly requested a more thorough investigation on the matter. It didn’t help that Jeffery Epstein’s alleged suicide occurred just a few years earlier in similar circumstances.

The conspiracy theory that McAfee was actually murdered strengthened when people started referring to his Twitter posts. Back in 2019, McAfee shared a Twitter post that said: “If I suicide myself, I didn’t. I was whackd.” He even made “whackd” into a memecoin and got its tagged tattooed on him arm. However, McAfee was in a load of trouble and was likely going to jail for a very long time. Suicide in these kinds of conditions is unfortunately common.

On 13 February, 2022, a Spanish court ruled he died by suicide, and on 14 December 2023, they delivered the body to his family in the United States.

Reports of John McAfee’s net worth at the time ranged from $0 to about $4 million but no one knows the exact number. In fact, he frequently stated that he lost all of his assets and, two years following his death, his widow Janice publicly shared that she was broke. According to her, he didn’t have an estate or a will, and she didn’t get any financial legacy following her husband’s death.

“There is the opportunity of an independent autopsy, but that will cost 30,000 euros, and I don’t have the money to pay for it. All I want is to see his body for myself and know that really happened.” – said his wife. All in all, it seems like McAfee was totally broke at the time of his death.

Media Appearances

In September 2016, Showtime Networks aired Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee, a documentary about the time he spent in Belize, covering allegations of him sexually assaulting and drugging his business partner Allison Adonizio, as well as allegedly ordering the murders of Gregory Faull and David Middleton.

McAfee strongly denied these accusations, arguing that the incidents were fabricated.

In 2017, it was reported that John Requa and Glenn Ficarra planned to direct a movie about McAfee titled King of the Jungle, co-written by Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander. At one point, it was reported that Michael Keaton and Johnny Depp took roles in this movie, but later left the project. Two years later, Zac Efron was reported to have signed on an Nicholas Cage has been linked with the project. It’s currently unclear whether shooting has begun or not.

In 2022, following McAfee’s death, a new Netflix documentary appeared on the streaming service. The 2022 documentary film Running with the Devil: The Wild World of John McAfee includes interviews with Rocco Castoro, Robert King, and Alex Cody Foster, among others.

The new Netflix documentary also includes footage from an unreleased documentary that had been in production from Vice.

john mcafee running with the devil

Political Involvement

McAfee was a libertarian who advocated an end to the war on drugs and decriminalization of cannabis, as well as a free market economy. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise as he was an avid drug user. He also advocated cyber awareness, frequently talked about the threat of cyber warfare, and pushed religious liberty.

In 2015, the businessman announced his bid for president in the 2016 United States presidential election, as the candidate of “Cyber Party”, a newly formed political party.

A few weeks later, on 24 December, he re-announced his presidential candidacy bid, this time seeking the Libertarian party’s presidential nomination.

mcafee presidential bid
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In 2018, McAfee tweeted that he would run for president again in the next election in 2020, either with the Libertarian Party or under one that he would create, but he once again decided to run as a Libertarian.

When the reports came out that he and four campaign staff were indicted for tax evasion and other tax-related felonies by the IRS in January 2019, he tweeted that he would continue his campaign in exile.

In March 2020, he suspended his presidential campaign and endorsed Vermin Supreme instead, announcing that he would run for the Libertarian Party vice president position. The next day, he reversed the suspension. A month later, he became Adam Kokesh’s vice presidential candidate.

McAfee lost once again at the 2020 Libertarian National Convention – for both slots to no one’s surprise.

John McAfee Net Worth: Other Businesses and Investments

While he was primarily known for the software that retained the McAfee name, this wasn’t the only company the executive founded over the years. After McAfee stepped away as McAfee’s chief executive and sold his stake in the company, he founded several other companies, was a member of different boards, and made many acquisitions.

Companies

After he left his antivirus software company, McAfee founded several other companies including:

  • Tribal Voice in 1994, which developed PowWow, one of the first instant messaging programs. The company announced that it would cease offering its service in January 2000.
  • QuorumEx, co-founded with Allison Adonizio, which produced herbal antibiotics, in 2010.
  • Future Tense Central, which produced a secure computer network device called D-Central in 2013.
  • Cognizant, a smartphone application that displays information about the permissions of other applications, later renamed to DCentral 1.

Board Memberships and Other Activities

In 2000, McAfee joined the board of directors of Zone Labs, a company that made firewall software before its acquisition by Check Point Software three years later.

That same year, in 2000, he acquired a large property in Colorado where he opened a yoga and meditation retreat. A few months later, he authored and published four books on yoga and meditation.

john mcafee yoga book
In 2016, McAfee was appointed CEO and chairman of MGT Capital Investments, where he initially focused on social gaming and later, on cybersecurity. He moved MGT into the mining of cryptocurrencies.

In August 2017, McAfee stepped down as MGT’s CEO and in January of the following year, he left the company to spend his time investing in cryptocurrencies on his own.

In August 2018, McAfee was appointed CEO of a cryptocurrency company named Luxcore.

2019 saw McAfee launch MaAfeeDex – the same exchange he referred to in his Tweet about his new tattoo. The same year, he claimed to have spoken with the mysterious inventor of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto and claimed he would reveal his true identity. Although he speculated about who it was, he never gave a single name or explanation for his thoughts.

Real Estate

Due to the tax evasion charges against him, McAfee had to sell real estate assets at very low prices.

In 2009, he bought a beachfront property on the Ambergris Caye island for an unknown value, as well as some property near Carmelita, both in Belize, where he surrounded himself with armed security guards.

That same year, CNBC interviewed him on The Bubble Decade, where he said that he built or bought many unsold US mansions when the recession hit, causing him to sell real estate at low rates and lose a major portion of his wealth.

For instance, he sold a $25 million Colorado estate for only $5.7 million, as well as a Hawaii mansion, a Cessna private jet, and a ranch in New Mexico for lower prices than he bought them for. In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, McAfee was reportedly broke, though his fortune returned to a few million in the next few years.

mcafee colorado property
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What Can We Learn from John McAfee’s Story?

In reflecting on the life of John McAfee, it becomes evident that his fortune, once substantial thanks to the success of McAfee Associates, ultimately dwindled to nothing due to poor decisions.

Departing from his first business marked a significant shift in McAfee’s trajectory. He initially made big strides in cybersecurity, combatting computer viruses. Still, his downfall stemmed from a series of unfortunate events, including many bad investments and a large number of legal troubles.

One particularly detrimental investment was his ill-fated bet on Lehman Brothers bonds, which contributed to his financial downfall. Furthermore, his entanglement in crime, particularly surrounding drugs and tax evasion, further exacerbated his financial troubles.

Throughout his life and even following his death – some even suggest he is still alive – John McAfee was characterized by controversy and eccentric behavior. This is what has led him to being the subject of two documentaries and potentially a Hollywood movie.

His story is impressive considering that he built significant wealth thanks to his talent, but it is also very educational because it serves as a reminder of the importance of prudent financial management, as well as the consequences of legal missteps.

McAfee’s journey teaches us of the volatility of wealth and the need for people to navigate financial decisions carefully, lest they face a similar fate.