McFarland explains why he didn’t call off the festival and what led him down “a terrible path of bad decisions.”
Billy McFarland gave his first television interview since being released from prison on “Good Morning America,” where he expressed regret over the complete disaster that was the Fyre Festival.
McFarland spent nearly four years behind bars after pleading guilty to two counts of wire fraud to dupe investors into sinking millions of dollars into the music festival in the Bahamas back in 2017. While he got people like Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Ja Rule to promote the event — which would have included performances from blink-182, Tyga and more — the festival fell apart as soon as people arrived. Instead of luxury accommodations and five star dining, attendees were instead greeted by disaster relief tents and cheese sandwiches.
McFarland got out of prison back in March, spent time in a halfway house and is now on supervised release. He still owes $26 million to investors, vendors and ticket holders, with his earnings garnished until it’s all paid back. Speaking with GMA, he was asked by Michael Strahan whether he was genuinely sorry, or just using his apology as a way to promote his newest business venture, PYRT.
“I need to apologize. And that is the first and the last thing that needs to be done,” he responded. “I let people down. I let down employees. I let down their families. I let down investors. So I need to apologize. I’m wrong and it’s bad.”
When Strahan noted that some people may never forgive him, he said he would totally “understand” if that were the case.
“I think for me it needs to start with finding internal pride. I want to be proud of myself first. I think if I can do that, live like that for a long period of time, I might have a second chance,” McFarland continued. “But if I don’t, I understand. I committed far more ethical, moral violations than most people do in many lifetimes, I get that if it that was my one shot.”
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For much of the interview, McFarland tried to explain why he acted the way he did to fund the event and why he didn’t call off the festival, despite warnings from his employees.
“I was wrong. I messed up. And I was so driven by this desperate desire to prove people right,” he told Strahan. “I had these early investors, backers, employees. I think I was just so insecure that I thought the only way to prove myself to them was to succeed. And that led me down just this terrible path of bad decisions.”
“Once again, I was totally wrong and I lied to investors to get money, but I put every dollar I had or could find to make this festival happen. I came back to New York after with $100 in my pocket,” he added, saying he “should have listened” to suggestions to pull the plug on the event and “there’s no excuse” for his decisions.
“I couldn’t pay anybody back. Whether it was a ticket holder, investor or vendor,” he added. “And in my mind I thought the only way to dig myself out of this hole was to pull this event off and build a brand.”
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Admitting he “should have canceled everything and stopped lying,” he said it’s hard now to see just how much he violated the trust of his friends, investors and employees who all worked to make the event happen. “How do I call them now and look them in the eye when I let them down?” he asked.
When asked what he learned about himself behind bars, McFarland said, “I used to take pride in getting things done and not how things got done. I think going forward, the biggest thing for me, is building relationships throughout the process and whether there’s success or failure in the business sense, it’s more about how it’s done instead of taking pride of this by all means idea, that’s wrong.”
He concluded that he hopes to keep bettering himself “for the next 40 years,” adding, “I’m certainly not done changing yet.”
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