Fyre Festival Trustee Suing Agencies to Recover Millions From Blink-182, Kendall Jenner and More

Fyre Festival
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.

The trustee handling the Fyre Festival bankruptcy has filed 14 lawsuits against a number of major talent agencies, transportation companies, management firms and celebrities like Kendall Jenner as it attempts to claw back $14.4 million paid out by Fyre Media and its founder Billy McFarland to stage the disastrous festival in Bahamas.

McFarland is now serving a six-year federal prison sentence for bilking investors out of $26 million to stage the over the top festival with rapper Ja Rule and the promotional help of models and social media influencers who hyped the event on Instagram. Gregory Messer has been appointed as a trustee of the chapter seven bankruptcy for Fyre Media — the celebrity booking app company responsible for the Fyre Fest — and is working with New York attorney Fred Stevens to recover money owed to creditors and investors.

Messer is suing United Talent Agency, Creative Artists Agency and International Creative Management as it attempts to recover money paid to artists represented by the firms, as well as $229,172.33 paid to American Express, $160,000 spent on private yachts and $238,550 spent with ticket broker ASC Tickets.

"Significant amounts were recklessly spent in continuation of McFarland’s schemes," Stevens wrote in a lawsuit filed against Fyre Media, which was responsible for the bulk of the transfers. That includes "musical acts that never showed up," he wrote, as well as "$2.25 million to influencers that promoted the Festival on social media without indicating to their followers and the public that they were paid for promoting the Festival (including $275,000 to Kendall Jenner for a single social media post)."

Stevens also took a shot at Matte Productions, which co-produced a documentary on the festival for Netflix with Jerry Media. According to his suit, records show a transfer of "over $500,000 to the company that shot and edited Fyre Festival ads and Festival footage which ultimately used that footage to produce a profitable and popular documentary panning the Festival (without sharing any of the proceeds of that documentary with those victimized by McFarland)."

Most of the lawsuits against the talent agencies are tied to acts that were booked at the festival but didn't attend. Two agencies — Paradigm and IMG — are currently in settlement negiotations with Messer, while agencies like CAA, which represent Blink-182, are taking their chances in court.

"Blink-182 had already been paid $500,000 when it canceled at the last minute. The band has retained those funds. In its cancellation tweet, the band did not disclose to its fans and others any of the problems that it was having with Fyre Festival and its management, or that the Festival appeared to be in serious trouble," Stevens wrote in a lawsuit against CAA.

ICM was named in a lawsuit over a $350,000 payment for a headlining set from an artist with Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music — Stevens wasn't clear if the money was paid to "Lil Yachty, and/or Migos, and/or (Rae) Sremmurd." 

There appears to be similar confusion over a lawsuit filed against NUE agency over a $730,000 payment. Stevens wrote that he could trace a $245,000 payment to Pusha T, a $142,500 payment to Desiigner and a $112,500 payment to Tyga, but wasn't sure who was paid an extra $230,000 in unaccounted-for transfers.

Stevens also filed suit against Jenner for the $270,000 she was allegedly paid for promoting Fyre on Instagram and accuses the model of intentionally misleading the public about a possible Kanye West appearance at Fyre Festival.

"Jenner’s reference to her 'G.O.O.D. Music Family' as 'headliners' at the Festival, intentionally led certain members of the public and ticket purchasers to believe that Jenner’s brother-in-law, famous musician and G.O.O.D. Music record label founder Kanye West, may be or would be performing at the Festival," Stevens wrote.  "In fact, Mr. West was never going to perform at the Festival. This conduct demonstrates a clear lack of good faith on Jenner’s part."

The trustee is also suing CAA over $60,000 paid to Claptone and $25,000 paid to Bedouin, and has also filed suit against UTA over a $90,000 payment to British rapper Skepta. Model Emily Ratajkowski is being sued by the trustee for allegedly accepting $300,000 to promote the festival on Instagram.

The lawsuit also includes new details about how much McFarland raised in his scheme. The report says McFarland raised $1.4 million in ticket sales in the lead up to the festival and sold Bump Network and Events.com the right to advances on future ticket sales for $1.5 million.

"In the one week leading up to the Festival, Fyre Festival actively encouraged ticket holders to put significant amounts onto their prepaid wristbands," Stevens wrote, "recommending $300 per attendee per day, and sent emails to attendees who had already put significant funds on their Fyre Bands telling them that they should 'top off' the amount on their Fyre Bands ahead of the Festival. In just one week, Fyre Festival raised over $1 million in prepayments from ticket holders on their Fyre Bands."

In a lawsuit against Fyre Media, Stevens also alleges McFarland spent $315,645 of investor funds on personal expenses "including a luxury penthouse apartment, interior design and home furnishings, hotel stays, dining and entertainment, transportation, clothing and other things."

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