Alejandro “Alex” Omes, a co-founder of Ultra Music Festival and a Miami nightlife staple, has died at age 43, festival executives confirmed to Billboard. The cause of death is not yet known.
Omes, along with his business partner Russell Faibisch, established the now-legendary music festival in 1999, and it has since grown to become one of the largest electronic festivals in the world, rivaling heavyweights Electric Daisy Carnival and Tomorrowland and out-seating the city’s annual Winter Music Conference.
Earlier this afternoon, Ultra released a statement about Omes’ passing: “The organizers of Ultra Music Festival extend their deepest condolences to the family of Alex Omes and are saddened by the news of his passing. We will continue to remember and celebrate Alex for his love, passion and contributions to the Electronic Dance Music community.”
Prior to helping throw the first Ultra in 1999, Omes attended high school in Miami Beach before working as a bouncer at Miami nightclubs like Cameo. According to a 2013 feature in the Miami New Times, Omes met Faibisch when he was 25 years old and publishing a dance music magazine called D’VOX. Faibisch wanted to place ads in the magazine for an event he was hosting. The two decided to partner on hosting a beachside dance party during Miami’s industry-focused WMC.
The first Ultra party in 1999 drew around 10,000 fans and DJs such as Josh Wink and Paul van Dyk. In 2001, it was moved from Collins Park in South Beach to Bayfront Park downtown to fit more attendees. Today, the festival welcomes hundreds of thousands of fans each year, and has spawned events in Brazil, South Korea, Croatia, Chile, Argentina, Ibiza and South Africa. Although it was not initially tied to the New York-based EDM label Ultra Records, the two formed a partnership in 2012.
As Billboard reported in 2011, Ultra broke off from WMC in 2010 and Omes was largely pushed out. He sued to regain control of the festival in 2012, but at the time of his death, his lawsuit and claims were still pending. He began hosting alternative events in the city through Go Big Productions, the most notable of which featured dance legends Swedish House Mafia and took place the same weekend as Ultra. He also began planning a new music festival called UR1 that would feature Kanye West and take place during Art Basel, but it was called off in November, 2012.