Alex Omes Died the Very Day of His Trial Against Ultra Music Festival
Alex Omes: "He was my best friend," says the brother who found him dead.
Courtesy of Emi Guerra
Alex Omes had been missing for 12 hours.
The morning of Monday, January 12, his big brother, Carlos, tried texting and calling. But there was no answer. Later in the day, Carlos texted and called, again and again. Still nothing. "We were extremely close," the elder Omes says. "And it wasn't like him. It gave me a bad feeling."
Around 9 p.m., Carlos headed over to Alex's fifth-floor townhouse apartment at 8101 Biscayne Blvd., in a building called the Bank Lofts. He pleaded with the property manager and a police officer to open the door. "I told them that I feared for my brother's well-being."
The Bank Lofts building where Alex Omes lived.
Photo by S. Pajot
Finally, they gave in and unlocked unit 510. Carlos stepped inside the 533-square-foot condo. He took five strides down the long, narrow hall leading from the entryway to Alex's concrete-floored, high-ceilinged living space. "And that's where I found him."
Alex Omes, 43 years old, was dead. He was lying in bed, surrounded by ten-foot, hurricane-resistant windows that looked out over nighttime Miami.
"He was my only sibling. He was my best friend," Carlos says. "I'm married, but he was the only family I had left in the world."
Earlier that day, Alex's case to regain control of Ultra Music Festival -- the international EDM brand he cofounded but then lost -- had finally gone to trial. Tens of millions of dollars were at stake. And the outcome would determine the future of Miami's only global music event, attended every year by 200,000 and broadcast to millions of internet viewers around the world.
The day after his death, Ultra offered sympathy and acknowledged Omes' influence with an official email statement. "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," the press release read. "We will continue to remember and celebrate Alex for his love, passion, and contributions to the electronic dance music community."
The memorial card from Alex Omes' funeral.
Photo by S. Pajot
Now, Omes' family, friends, and much of the dance-music world wonder how this seemingly healthy young guy ended up dying on the very day he was meant to face off in court with his former business partners. Did he overdose? Did he commit suicide? Did he succumb to some unknown health problem? Was he killed?
The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's investigation is ongoing, and no cause of death has been determined. But "foul play has not been ruled out," Carlos says. "It seems just too much of a coincidence that he didn't even make it to the first day in court."
Born in Argentina, the Omes brothers moved to Miami Beach with their mother in 1980. Alex was 9 years old and Carlos 11. (Their father passed away when the boys were just toddlers.) They grew up together. Both graduated from Miami Beach Senior High. And later, as adults, they sometimes went out to the clubs together.
But unlike his older sibling, Alex was a nightlife pro who quickly became a fixture of South Beach's nascent scene.
"I was vacationing in Miami for two weeks during New Year's Eve 1989," recalls local club-land luminary Carmel Ophir. "We went to South Beach on a Monday night and arrived at the Edison Hotel, where a club called Tropics International would play blues on Mondays. At the door was Alex, who let my friend and I in. He kept coming in throughout the night to check if we were enjoying ourselves. That was the kind of person Alex was."
Omes spent most of the early 1990s doing odd nightlife jobs, most notably as a bouncer at Cameo. And later, around 1995, he became publisher of D'VOX, his own dance-music magazine chronicling the Miami scene and the celebrated DJs who played its infamous party spots.
"There was Ocean Drive, the Miami Herald, and, of course, New Times," says Ophir. "But D'VOX focused on the sounds of the underground. All dance music was underground back then; it was not the commercial thing it is now. There wasn't any local magazine that did that."
The first Ultra Music Festival in 1999.
Courtesy of Ultra Music Festival
About the same time, Omes, then age 25, met Russell Faibisch, the 18-year-old son of a bail-bond entrepreneur. They started hanging out, then working together to promote shows. And soon, they came up with a plan to launch a one-day dance event on Miami Beach during Winter Music Conference, the annual industry week that had been luring DJs, electronic acts, and fans to South Florida for panels and parties since 1985.
On March 12, 1999, Omes and Faibisch's Ultra Music Festival debuted on the sands of South Beach, in the Collins Park area, where the W South Beach and Seagull Hotel stand today. Acts like Rabbit in the Moon, Paul van Dyk, Josh Wink, and Baby Anne played for 10,000 people.
Over the next decade, Ultra would grow into a three-day megafest starring hundreds of dance-music stars for nearly 100,000 ravers. Spinoff festivals were spawned in Brazil, South Korea, Croatia, Chile, and elsewhere. Meanwhile, EDM began to emerge as the most massive pop movement of the 2010s.
Just a couple of months after he launched Ultra, Alex married his girlfriend, Karie. The wedding was May 11, 1999. And three years later, the couple welcomed a child, Joshua Alexander. But even with a new baby, the Omeses grew apart. They separated in 2004, and Karie formally asked for a divorce in 2005. The breakup was amicable, with Karie, a student at the time, keeping their Aventura home and family car while the court ordered Alex to pay $1,700 monthly in child support.
Only a few years later, Alex would also split with Faibisch and Ultra. In his lawsuit, Omes asserted that when he and Faibisch formally incorporated Ultra in 2012, he was a 54 percent shareholder and the festival's designated president. Faibisch brought in his brother, Charlie, in 2005 as a new partner and shareholder, to provide capital as the festival grew. But Omes said he continued to have no less than 50 percent voting control over the festival's corporate management and business affairs.
Adam Russakoff, yet another new partner, joined in 2010 and -- instead of becoming a minority shareholder -- he was issued 100 shares without Omes' consent. It was then, Omes alleged, that the Faibisches and Russakoff illegally conspired to wrestle control of Ultra from him and removed him as president with a "secret shareholders' meeting" on August 10, 2010.
Filed in 2012, Omes' original lawsuit demanded $33 million for his shares of the festival. Ultra struck back and countersued, saying the festival's livelihood was at stake with Omes in control. According to court documents, Faibisch and the other partners accused Omes of "engaging in self-dealing and acts of bad faith which were harmful to Ultra Enterprises." That allegedly included pushing out a Red Bull sponsorship so his girlfriend could receive a commission by signing up Penthouse energy drink, losing a Coors Brewing sponsorship after contacting a representative in a screaming rage, and berating TACA Airline executives, causing them to pull out as sponsors.
After his ouster from Ultra, Omes reemerged to create Go Big Productions with close friend and fellow nightlife power player Emi Guerra. Together, they staged three editions of Swedish House Mafia's Masquerade Motel in 2010, '11, and '12. They also threw annual IndepenDance pool parties on July 4 weekend. And in 2012, they even tried to start a new music festival called UR1, which was set to star Kanye West and Lou Reed during Art Basel Miami Beach week. But ticket sales lagged, and it was canceled just three weeks before the show.
Guerra was among the last people to talk to Omes before his death. "He was very optimistic about the trial," the Go Big cocreator says. "I had spoken to him on Sunday night, the night before he passed away. He wished me a late happy birthday, and we were reminiscing about how time flies, because I was out of town on my birthday, so we kept missing each other."
Carlos Omes spent Sunday afternoon with his brother at his attorney's office and agrees that Alex was upbeat about his court date with Ultra. "He was very focused. Later, he was sending me the kind of texts that you would send a brother before a big case like this. And we were very confident that everything was going to be great. He had every intention to fight and win."
In regard to Alex's health, physical and mental, leading up to the trial, as well as the possibility of drug use, the elder Omes says: "My brother was always extremely healthy. He looked healthy. We're both the gym type. I trained boxing with him all the time. He was in perfect health. Like I said, foul play hasn't been ruled out."
Alex Omes' last communication with his family, friends, and the world seems to be a Facebook message posted at 2:47 a.m. Monday, January 12. As he always did, Alex, a lifelong Catholic, had spent the days before his death sending out Bible memes and inspirational one-liners. His final status update read, "The Secret of Freedom Is Courage."
The case of Alejandro "Alex" Omes v. Ultra Enterprises Inc. has been put on hold for 90 days. But it can proceed as soon as Omes' family establishes an estate. "And of course, that is going to be done," Carlos Omes says. "I have to bury my brother. But the case will move on."
Twelve-year-old Joshua Omes and his father.
Courtesy of Karie Omes
A week and five days after he died, Alex Omes' funeral was held at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Miami Beach. Carlos carried the urn with his brother's ashes to the altar. Twelve-year-old Joshua Omes sat with his mother, Karie, just a few steps from a blown-up photo of father and son embracing. Among the several hundred mourners were Guerra, Ophir, and Winter Music Conference founder Bill Kelly.
Bible readings were recited, and a certain peacefulness prevailed. But toward the end of the service, Karie stepped to the pulpit and delivered a terse, tearful speech about her ex.
"This is one of his texts from the day before he died," she said, weeping, before quoting Alex: " 'Love you all so much. You are my family. And I will fight for us all until the very end. Pray for me to have the strength to enjoy life, which I haven't for so long. I want to give Josh the very best of me.' "
She paused and added, as her voice cracked, "All I can say is, I'll be damned if those beautiful words go in vain. We love you, Alex. May you rest in peace."
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