Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012



Remember the 1982 movie "Caddyshack?"  In those days, millionaires bought planes, yachts and mansions to show off their amazing wealth.  Boy, have times changed.  First of all it's multi-billionaires...not millionaires.  Also, simple little things like boats and jets aren't nearly big enough to demonstrate one's astounding monetary value.  Nope...these days, billionaires are buying islands.  Last year, Virgin Atlantic's chairman RICHARD BRANSON bought Neckar Island in the Caribbean.  So, it just came as no surprise last week when Oracle CEO LARRY ELLISON announced he had bought the Hawaiian island of Lanai.

The first question you must be asking yourself is: Does he really own the entire island of Lanai?  The answer: Pretty darn close.  The Public Utilities Commission has given "internal approval" for the plan which would give Ellison ownership of 98% of the island's 141 square miles.  This includes two Four Seasons Resorts, two golf courses and fifty miles of beaches. The next thing you're asking yourself is: What is on Lanai anyhow?  Anything other than pineapples?  Well...it's true...Lanai was first purchased by JAMES DOLE in 1922 and used solely as a plantation.   The tasty fruit still grows on the open fields, but the main economy is tourism.  Today, most of the island's 3,200 residents work in this sector. So...aside from a store, post office and no traffic lights...there really isn't much on the island of Lanai.

Another obvious question is: How do the people of Lanai...albeit not many of them...feel about a hot-shot "Bruce Wayne" billionaire controlling their land?  Believe it or not, most of them are quite happy about it.  See, LARRY ELLISON is a step in the right direction from the previous billionaire who owned the island, DAVID MURDOCK.   It's obvious that the 89 year-old Castle & Cooke CEO is loosing his marbles.   He is convinced his diet of "smoothies made from bananas and orange rinds" will allow him to live to the age of 125.  (Mmmm...orange rinds!)  He also has plans to build a "wind farm" on Lanai to sell electricity to Oahu via an underwater cable.  No...he's not crazy at all!

Anyhow, back to Mr. Ellison.  So far, he has not commented on what he wants to do with Lanai, but speculation is rampant.  For starters, the MAUI NEWS is worried about expansion.  See, the tiny island has trouble hosting the billionaire's ritzy and eccentric hobbies.  For example,  the runways at the airport are way too small for Ellison's Russian MIG fighter to land.  Another problem is the mere thirty miles of paved roads.  See...this is inadequate for Ellison's McLaren Formuala-1 Race Car to drive on.  And the tiny harbor at Manele Bay?  It simply cannot moor Larry's 453-foot yacht.  Tough questions for the CEO indeed.

All we know for sure is that LARRY ELLISON paid for Lanai in cash (!) and that the amount was "around" $500 - $600 million dollars.   We also know that he spoke with State Sen. J. Kalani English, whose Maui District includes Lanai...now the US's largest privately owned island.  Senator English assured Hawaiians that Ellison is sensitive to the: "culture and conservation stewardship of the island."  So we'll all just have to sit back and wait to see what happens.  Let's just hope Larry doesn't try to surf again.  Back in 1991, he was surfing on Lanai's pristine Kaiolohia Bay and tried to "pull an Eskimo Roll in massive foamies but took a rail bang."  TRANSLATION: He crashed and broke his neck.

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