Fyre Fest Trustee to Subpoena Paradigm, CAA and ICM Partners In Bankruptcy Probe

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
Billy McFarland, the promoter of the failed Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, leaves federal court after pleading guilty to wire fraud charges on March 6, 2018 in New York City.

Judge approves request to learn more about $1.4 million in wire payments to talent agencies.

A federal judge in New York has approved a petition by the trustee overseeing the Fyre Festival bankruptcy to issue subpoenas to a number of top-tier talent agencies involved in booking artists to play the doomed festival in the Bahamas.

Trustee Gregory M. Messer has indicated he might try to claw back the money paid to Fyre Fest artists that arguing "not a single performer ever showed up to, much less performed at, the festival" which was canceled after the first day with many bands being advised not to travel to island because of a lack of organization and dangerous conditions.

In 2017, Messer was appointed to oversee Fyre Fest's chapter seven involuntary bankruptcy for the $26 million flameout, with guests showing up to Grand Exuma island expecting an over-the-top luxury music festival with headliners like Blink-182, Major Lazer and Matoma, only to find a half-built festival site and emergency tents in place of promised luxury villas and high-end hangouts.

On Jan. 2 Messer asked judge Martin Glenn to approve subpoenas to Paradigm Talent Agency, Creative Artists Agency and ICM Partners to examine $1.4 million in wire payments made to secure talent for the 2017 festival. 

Fyre Fest wired $250,000 in payments to CAA, who represent headliner Blink 182 and ICM Partners, who represented Fyre performers Rae Sremmurd, Migos and Lil Yachty at the time. Windish Agency and AM Only, who had become part of Paradigm at the beginning of 2017, had received $690,000 in payment for acts like Major Lazer and Disclosure. The document shows $447,500 was sent to Windish and $242,500 to AM Only.

Another $215,000 was wired to NUE Agency, a New York firm that says it "brings artists big opportunities that help them align with brands through identifying synergies."

Messer is trying to figure out how McFarland blew through tens of millions of dollars in investor money on the festival, as well as the Fyre artist booking app. Authorities say McFarland, who is interviewed in the documentary Fyre Fraud which dropped today on Hulu, misrepresented the profitability of his company to investors and a ponzi scheme trying to constantly raise new money to pay off old investors. Last year he pled guilty to multiple fraud charges and was sentenced to six months in federal prison.

McFarland kept no accounting records and hasn't complied with bankruptcy court orders to provide a financial accounting of the millions he spent flying back and forth to the Bahamas with rapper Ja Rule, an early backer of Fyre, along with supermodels and social media influencers who helped promote Fyre Fest on social media. 

McFarland's "failure to file required schedules and a statement of financial affairs has required the Trustee to uncover as much information as he can from third parties in order to gain a full understanding of (McFarland's) financial affairs," Messer wrote in his request to subpoena the agencies, which was approved Jan. 3. "In this case, the (talent agencies) are the only source the Trustee has to gain a full understanding of the nature of the (wire) transfers."

Once the subpoenas are served, lawyers for the agencies will have 14 days to respond.

Messer has also asked to subpoena 16 companies tied to staging, travel and food and beverage at the event, representing $4.7 million in payments from McFarland. That includes $1.6 million paid to Swift Air for private chartered flights and $386,359 to American Express, as well as payments to festival consultants like Yaron Lavi for $250,000 and Terence Winder, who is listed as "Festival consultant/investor" as was reportedly wired $100,000.

Festivals 2019