Former software mogul John McAfee puts his Molokai home on the market and heads for the equator.
From his deck overlooking the emerald waters inside Belize’s cherished coral reef on the north island of Ambergris Caye, John McAfee dries himself off after a swim, sips his second cup of coffee, and openly admits, “Hawaii is over for me.”
McAfee’s take on the Aloha State isn’t shared by many, but then again, most people aren’t as fortunate to have the luxury of turning their backs on paradise.
The British-born former software mogul, who was raised in Virginia, singlehandedly created the world’s most popular anti-virus program (McAfee VirusScan) with his eponymous company and one of the first Internet chat services anywhere (PowWow). However, at the height of it all, McAfee dumped the corporate suits for a rockstar lifestyle of flight jackets, crash helmets, and flip-flops.
“In the software industry, we don’t have the culture that rock stars have,” says McAfee. “It might be nice to be on stage with women throwing panties at you and doing drugs all night, but I worked 16 hours a day managing a software company. The success that came was an afterthought. It didn’t change what I was doing.”
Maybe it’s the Maori tattoos on his arms (a reminder of a trip to the remote west coast of New Zealand), the network of airstrips he’s building in Belize for his club of aerotrekkers (think motorcycles with wings), or the fact that McAfee just became an official resident of Belize, but this 64-yearold looks, acts, and talks more like a wide-eyed grad student whose world is his oyster than a retired millionaire about to receive his AARP card.
“It wasn’t until after I left the company that I realized I had more money than anyone can spend. What was I going to do? So I stared doing what I loved to do: fishing, diving, snorkeling, jet skiing, boating, and all the things that thrilled me.”
McAfee’s success also afforded him the luxury of owning about a dozen estates (he isn’t sure of the exact number) spread out across North America, Fiji, and Belize, and now he’s cashing it all in. In fact, his 280-acre Colorado mountain estate that was estimated at over $20 million was auctioned off for a mere $5.78 million. “I’m embarrassed that I built that house in Colorado,” says McAfee. “It sold to a gentleman who shouldn’t have bought it. The maintenance on that place is over $1 million a year.”
One of the featured items on the McAfee real estate chopping block is his 5,800 square foot beachfront
estate on 5.3 acres of Hawaii’s secluded Molokai Island, a home that took him seven years to build and one that he never moved into.
Construction of the Molokai home wasn’t easy, admits McAfee. All of the materials had to be flown in or shipped by barge. But now that the home is finished, it’s easy to see why he started the project in the first place, especially when you calculate a quick 15-minute flight to Honolulu. “It’s the perfect place,” says McAfee.
The property, nestled at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, is guarded by a 20- foot-high Japanese gate house featuring iron gates and Afghan teak wood horses. The perimeter fence includes Molokai rock columns with tight knot cedar in case the seclusion of this spot doesn’t offer enough privacy as it is.
“I was trying to build something fairly grand,” says McAfee. “I contracted a local Hawaiian artist to build a traditional Hawaiian wall around the entire property. The wall and gatehouse cost $300,000.”
Andrea Pilot of Coldwell Banker represents the property which begins with a circular driveway that winds through a Kiawe forest into the double-wide porte-cochere. From there you can see through the custom front doors of this Hawaiian-Asian style farmhouse to the crashing surf out back.
The great room combines the kitchen, living room, and dining room. It has large sliding glass doors that open out to a huge covered deck, providing sweeping ocean views towards Oahu and Diamond Head. The deck runs along the entire ocean side of the house from the master suite to the north wing bedrooms (four, including a private maid’s quarters). The great room contains four large skylights which are remote controlled with sensors to automatically close when it rains.
“I like open spaces, hence the open design of the home—large rooms, high ceiling, lots of windows. If you live at the beach, you should let the light in and be able to see the surf crashing on the rocks.”
Along with the openness of the home, McAfee wanted to make sure the house paid tribute to the local heritage. Two Molokai rock fireplaces with hickory entertainment centers, one in the great room and one in the master suite, took six months to build, while all counter tops are custom “sea foam” granite with full backsplashes that reflect like a mirror.
The master bedroom suite is 1,262 square feet of enclosed living space with an additional 528 square-foot covered deck with an ocean view of Kaiwi Channel. The suite also includes a large walk-in closet, computer office space, floor-to-ceiling Molokai rock fireplace and entertainment center, a Jacuzzi bath tub with view of ocean, glass block shower, toilet and bidet, his-and-hers sinks, and a large hickory wood linen closet. Two guest bedrooms feature full bathrooms and walk-in closets along with access to the covered deck with ocean views. The maid’s quarters provide privacy with a separate entrance, full bathroom, kitchenette area, and private deck, also enjoying ocean views.
“The house is designed so that from any bedroom you have a grand view of the ocean. At night, with the lights of Waikiki just offshore, it’s gorgeous.”
So why sell, especially for a third of what he put into it? For McAfee, the answer is more philosophical than practical. He says that his success was a potential threat to his freedom. As his company became more successful, he put more of himself into it to the point where he says he had no other life. “You socialize around it, you think about it exclusively, and spend all of your time on it. It happened to me and it wasn’t fun.” That’s when he hired former IBM executive Bill Larson to take over the reins.
“I said, ‘Here’s the company, take it, I’m leaving.’ It freed me from what could have become a very tedious life with me ending up some fat, retired business man wearing a suit, taking a two-week vacation to a place where I now live. It took seven years to build this house on Molokai and in that time, my entire life changed. Belize is where I want to spend my time. This will be my home for my remaining time here.”
The ease with which McAfee discusses his ultimate demise carries with it a tone of spiritual enlightenment that seems to flow as smoothly off his tongue as do his natural observations overlooking the turquoise waters from his deck. For this former corporate king, a beachfront home is more than just a status symbol. It has become a way of life. —Jack Morris
For more information on John McAfee’s Molokai home, including an expanded photo gallery, visit andreapilot.com or contact Andrea Pilot at Coldwell Banker:
John McAfee’s Molokai home was sold for $1,661,000 at auction, handled by the Auction Company of America. Bidders from across the globe participated in the auction, which eventually dwindled down to three active bidders.
As of November 11, 2012, McAfee is a “person of interest”, wanted for questioning by Belize police in regards to the murder of his neighbor, 52-year-old Gregory Faull, an American expatriate. McAfee has gone into hiding since Faull’s body was discovered that Sunday morning with a bullet wound to the head. McAfee and Faull had been at odds for some time, but McAfee stated his innocence over the phone to Wired magazine editor, Joshua Davis. He claims to have gone into hiding for fear of his own life, believing that the Belizean authorities have a vendetta against him.
Video: John McAfee and his Sky Gypsies