Organisers of Fyre Festival in Bahamas sued for $100m
Man alleges fraud in legal action over event which people paid thousands to attend
On Friday, the music industry woke up to the news that the Fyre Festival, promoted as a pair of luxurious concert weekends in the Bahamas, had been abruptly cancelled, with attendees taking to social media to post images of shoddy beach accommodations and far-from-gourmet meals.
And then, for the festival organisers, the legal and financial reckoning began. Over the weekend, one disappointed ticket buyer filed a lawsuit alleging fraud, and the Bahamian government sought to reassure travellers of the safety of the islands.
The lawsuit, which seeks $100 million and class-action status, was filed by Mark J. Geragos, a celebrity lawyer who has represented Chris Brown and Kesha, on behalf of Daniel Jung, a Los Angeles man who, according to the suit, paid $2,000 for a ticket and airfare to the festival.
The event, announced in December through a wave of Instagram posts by celebrities and supermodels, was advertised as including popular acts like Blink-182, Major Lazer, Migos and Rae Sremmurd. The rapper Ja Rule and his business partner, the 25-year-old technology entrepreneur Billy McFarland, were behind the festival, and attendees were promised music, catered meals and VIP accommodations in a beach paradise.
But once the first fans arrived on flights from Miami on Thursday, it was clear that the festival was not what it was promised to be. According to Mr Jung’s suit, the scene “was closer to The Hunger Games or Lord of the Flies than Coachella.”
In an email, Mr Geragos said that “we have been inundated with people distraught over what happened” who wanted to join the suit, filed Sunday in federal court in California.
Mr McFarland and a representative of the festival did not respond to emails and phone messages on Monday. It is still not clear just how, or when, the event fell apart. Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that some of the performers had not been paid advances, but talent agents representing acts on the bill said the fees were eventually paid.
Blink-182 withdrew on Thursday afternoon, telling its fans, “We’re not confident that we would have what we need to give you the quality of performances we always give.” Yet even that evening, agents for other acts were given no indications from organizers of trouble ahead.
In a lengthy statement, the director general of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Joy Jibrilu, defended Great Exuma, where the festival was to be held, as a developed island with a fully functioning infrastructure. And one more thing: “Despite reports, the waters surrounding Great Exuma are not shark-infested,” she said.
Festival organisers have cited rough weather as one cause of complications at the event site but also admitted in a statement, “We were simply in over our heads.”
In a presentation put together to entice investors, which was obtained by Vanity Fair, the festival organisers claimed they had been given access to land worth $8.4 million in exchange for putting on the festival and advertising the island. The Ministry of Tourism did not respond to a message seeking comment.
The festival has told attendees they can have their tickets refunded or receive a VIP ticket to Fyre Festival 2018, “which will take place at a US beach venue.” Yet talent managers and others expressed doubt that anyone in the music industry would work with the Fyre team again. The statement from the Bahamas tourism ministry also noted that many third-party vendors “who typically supply services to the promoters under contract” said they had not been paid.
An email sent over the weekend to ticket holders included a link to an online form for requesting refunds. Organisers asked customers not to request refunds on payments they had already disputed through their credit card companies, a move some made almost as soon as they arrived.
Shivi Kumar (33), who split a $3,500 deluxe lodge package with six friends, asked her bank to refund the money she had uploaded to a digital wristband, which organizers had recommended that guests use instead of cash.
“When I called Bank of America, they said, ‘We already know about everything’” regarding the festival, Ms Kumar said. “They didn’t even do a temporary credit; they just refunded it.”
The organisers’ email also promised that Mr McFarland would make a personal apology by phone and asked ticket holders for the best number to use to contact them. “We are now one of the world’s most famous festivals,” the note said, “for all the wrong reasons.”
New York Times