His name remains synonymous with antivirus software to this day, but
An early brush with death
John McAfee was born on September 18, 1945 in Gloucestershire in the UK, just 16 days after the end of World War II. His father Don Harold McAfee was an American soldier stationed in the UK, while his mother Joan Ellen Williams was British.
McAfee senior was originally from Virginia, and the family moved there soon after John — their only son — was born. He grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, where his father worked as a road surveyor.
To call his childhood unhappy would be a huge understatement. After beating his son mercilessly — and often — for years, Don McAfee, a heavy drinker, took his own life with a gun in 1961. John, who was 15 years old at a time, was haunted by his father’s death for the rest of his life.
The godfather of antivirus
In 1968, McAfee began his career as a programmer at NASA’s Institute for Space Studies in New York City during one of the most exciting times in human history — the first moon landing.
He went on to work at Univac, Xerox and Booz Allen Hamilton, all the while addicted to alcohol and drugs. That he was able to keep getting jobs in reputed organisations despite his demons is a testament to his skill as a programmer.
But by 1983, his addictions had grown too severe and McAfee — now at Omex — was often found drinking and taking drugs in his office. The company fired him, inadvertently giving him the wakeup call he needed. McAfee joined Alcoholics Anonymous sobered up.
He then joined US defence contractor Lockheed Martin, where he learned about a piece of code that, once on a computer, could automatically copy itself onto any floppy disk inserted into it. The code was called, appropriately enough, a virus.
McAfee sensed at once that as computers proliferated, the menace of computer viruses would skyrocket. This prompted him to found his own company, McAfee Associates, in 1987.
As he predicted, computer viruses became a worldwide threat over the next few years and McAfee Associates turned into a multi-million dollar business. Unlike its competitors, which charged for their software, McAfee gave its product away for free but charged for technical support and upgrades. This strategy blew away the competition and arguably changed the industry forever.
In August 1993, McAfee stepped down as chief executive but remained with the company as its chief technical officer. In 1994, he sold his remaining stake in the company.
After various mergers and ownership changes, Intel acquired McAfee in August 2010.
Two years prior to that, McAfee lost 96% of his estimated $100 million fortune during the 2008 financial crisis.
The craziest presidential run ever
McAfee ran for the office of US president twice — in 2016 and 2020. His first campaign was strongly focused on the threat of cyber warfare and the need to prepare for it, a position that proved prophetic when the scale of Russian interference in that year’s election was revealed.
In June 2018, McAfee announced that he would run for president again in 2020. But in January 2019, reports emerged that he, his wife, and four members of his campaign were being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax evasion.
McAfee did what any sensible candidate for the office of US president wouldn’t. He shifted his campaign headquarters to Havana, Cuba, and vowed to continue his campaign as a fugitive from the law by using hundreds of masked lookalikes.
In October 2020, McAfee was arrested in Spain at the behest of the US for failing to file tax returns for four years, and concealing assets including property and yachts under other people’s names.
In March, the US Justice Department added charges of fraud and money laundering to this list, alleging that McAfee and a business partner cheated investors of over $13 million by falsely promoting cryptocurrencies.
McAfee resisted extradition, claiming he would be politically persecuted, but on June 23, Spain’s National Court approved his extradition to the US.
Hours later, he was found dead in his jail cell, aged 75. His lawyer Javier Villalba said he died by hanging. If convicted, he could have faced up to 30 years in prison.
Soon after his death, this tweet from December 2019 went viral on social media. Sharing a picture of his tattoo on his right arm, McAfee had written, “If I suicide myself, I didn’t. I was whackd. Check my right arm.”
ETtech DEALS DIGEST
Picture: Tata Digital president Mukesh Bansal (left) and Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran
■ Tata Sons is understood to have approached global investors to raise an estimated $2-2.5 billion for its digital business, even as the group readies for a pilot launch of its super app in Bengaluru in September. Curefit co-founder Mukesh Bansal, who recently joined Tata Digital as president, is a key member of the fundraising team.
■ PharmEasy parent API Holdings is acquiring a 66.1% stake in diagnostics chain
■ Global private equity fund KKR is investing $625 million for a 54% stake in Vini Cosmetics, valuing the firm at around Rs 8,600 crore. The investment is the largest PE-led buyout of a consumer goods company in India and ranks among the top M&A deals in the consumer sector.
A quick look at the top deals of this week
OTHER BIG STORIES BY OUR REPORTERS
The government’s proposed changes to the e-commerce rules would not only apply to e-commerce marketplaces such as Amazon India and Flipkart but also a wide range of online companies such as travel company MakeMyTrip, food delivery firms Zomato and Swiggy, ride-hailing firms Ola and Uber, and home services provider Urban Company. Govt’s clarification on flash sales has further compounded confusion for e-tailers. Also, read our breakdown of why e-tailers are upset over these draft guidelines.
Young crypto investors in the country are betting on the nascent industry even as investors and experts ruminate on whether the market has entered a bearish phase or not after Bitcoin sank below $30,000 for the first time this week since January. Meanwhile, family offices and high net worth individuals in India are also joining the crypto bandwagon in droves even as the country’s top crypto exchanges plan a multi-pronged approach to put pressure on the government to regulate cryptocurrency in India.
Twitter’s actions were in violation of India’s new IT rules, he said in a tweet. Shashi Tharoor, the chairman of the parliamentary panel on information technology said they will be seeking an explanation from the social media firm over this incident and the rules it follows while operating in the country.While the Covid-19 pandemic has increased demand for IT services companies and led to higher attrition and margin pressures due to wage hikes, metrics such as increased offshoring and reduction in discretionary spends were likely to offset headwinds in the short term, said IT sector analysts.Some startups are offering services for free to schools. Fee collection has been especially low of late — parents feel they do not have to pay the full fee because children are not going to school.Indian startup sector has emerged as a net-gainer of C-suite movements as increasing possibility for wealth creation, rising number of liquidity events and buybacks of shares issued to employees over the last year attracted CXO talent from large enterprises to startups.
Kurian said the Jio-Google Cloud deal for 5G technology is “marque” and one which will help the company get scale quickly and eventually lead to profitability. Also, read the key tech announcements from Reliance Industries’ 2021 AGM.
That’s about it from us this week. Stay safe and get vaccinated when you get the opportunity.