Photo: Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez
Like everyone else in the world, Dave DeWalt was closely following the weird story of software pioneer John McAfee as it unfolded last month.But for DeWalt, the sordid tale hit close to home—because he used to run the business McAfee built.
McAfee fled the Central American country of Belize when police sought to question him about the murder of his neighbour. His escape involved sex, drugs, the faking of his own capture, and McAfee’s eventual deportation to the U.S.
DeWalt was the former CEO of McAfee, which he rebuilt after a stock-options scandal and sold for $7.8 billion to Intel in 2010. DeWalt is now CEO of FireEye, an up-and-coming security startup.
He talked with Business Insider about his reaction to John McAfee’s misadventures and told us:
I was a little embarrassed for the company as well as disappointed in him. He was a great inventor and in a way I looked up to him—not necessarily what he was doing, but he built a $20 billion industry. The man who invented antivirus was John McAfee. It wasn’t Peter Norton with Norton Utilities.
“o when you see something later that undermines the character of an innovator and an entrepreneur like that, I’m a little disappointed and embarrassed by it.
DeWalt said he was particularly disappointed “to watch someone who had that much opportunity and impact in the world wind up the way it ended up. There are a lot of chapters not written yet, but they’re not heading in the right direction.”
DeWalt points out that McAfee has had nothing to do with his eponymous company for 20 years—yet McAfee’s adventures wound up being a “crisis” for the brand because the regular Joe hearing the tale didn’t always understand that.