Part-time Santa Barbaran Larry Ellison, worth an estimated $36 billion, just spent some of it to buy the sixth largest Hawaiian island, Lana’i.
Actually, Ellison, CEO of the software company Oracle, acquired a mere 98% of an island that used to grow 75% of the world’s pineapples. The fruit’s gone now and the main attractions are the two Four Seasons resorts.
It’s not known what Ellison paid for the 140-square-mile island, but apparently hundreds of millions of dollars. He bought it from Castle & Cooke, whose owner, David Murdock, has a net worth of $2.5 billion. Murdock, 89, says he will retain a solar farm and a home on the island.
The island has reportedly been losing tens of millions of dollars a year in operating costs, according to CNN. And it’s not clear what Ellison plans to do with it. Besides the two five-star hotels there, The Lodge at Koele and the Four Seasons Resort at Manele Bay, and two golf courses, there is little else to attract tourists. Except perhaps the fact that Lana’i has no stop lights.
On the other hand, it’s nice to own your own private island, even if it costs a few million dollars a year for upkeep. Ellison, by the way, doesn’t need a loan. He’s paying cash.
“It is my understanding that Mr. Ellison has had a long-standing interest in Lana’i. His passion for nature, particularly the ocean, is well-known, specifically in the realm of America’s Cup sailing,” Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie said.
“We need somebody with very deep pockets that understands this upfront, that can continue these type of losses – at least for the first few years until we can find something to make the island valuable again,” the island’s State Senator J. Kalani English said.
Murdock is also the majority stockholder in the Dole Food Company. Founded in Hawaii in 1851, according to the company’s website, Dole brags of being the world’s largest producer and marketer of fruits and vegetables, according to CNN.
Castle & Cooke’s website boasts employing nearly half the island’s residents, which the last census placed at around 3,500 people, but Sen. English says the population has fallen to about 1,900.