|L-R Larry Ellison, David Murdock.|
Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison has reached a deal to buy 98 percent of the Hawaiian island of Lanai from its current owner, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Wednesday. The 2 percent Ellison isn't buying is owned by the state, county and private residents. The billionaire boss of technology giant Oracle is set to take ownership of the 141 sq mile (365 sq km) island owned currently by billionaire David Murdock. Known as "Pineapple Island"even though Murdock closed its pineapple operations to make way for luxury resort and home development. The majority of the island was once owned by James Dole of Dole Food Company Inc., who bought it in 1922. Hawaii's smallest publicly accessible island is home to 3,200 residents and now boasts several luxury resorts.The island boasts unspoiled charm with 30 miles of paved roads, 400 miles of unpaved roads and no traffic lights. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, more than 26,000 people visited the island from January to April of this year, a 6 percent decline from the same period last year. Mr Murdock has owned Lanai since 1985 through private company Castle & Cooke. A co-founder of Oracle, one of Silicon Valley's traditional tech giants, Mr Ellison is listed sixth on Forbes' list of global billionaires, with a net worth estimated at $36bn, a huge difference from Murdock's $2.7bn.
Reports that Murdock was interested in selling the island had aroused rumors that Bill Gates, who rented the island for his 1994 wedding to Melinda French, was a potential buyer. J. Kalani English, a state senator who represents Lanai in Hawaii's Legislature, said he's hopeful the sale to Ellison will mean a return of agriculture to the island."I'm relieved because he's one of the richest people on the planet, which means he knows he'll lose a lot of money in the beginning and he can sustain that," said English, a Democrat.
Seventh-generation Lanaian Sol Kahoohalahala said he hopes to see an end to high unemployment and more opportunities for economic development beyond tourism."I look at this as a potential opportunity for us to get the new owner to look at Lanai in terms of an island that needs to work at sustaining itself," he said. "Tourism cannot be the only economic engine on Lanai."
Abercrombie said Ellison has had a longstanding interest in the island. "We look forward to welcoming Mr. Ellison in the near future," Abercrombie said. "His passion for nature, particularly the ocean is well known specifically in the realm of America's Cup sailing," he said.
The deal involves 88,000 acres of land, plus two resorts, two golf courses, a stable and various residential and commercial buildings, lawyers for Murdock told the utilities commission in its application. Larry Ellison's successful bid is unknown, but the asking price was said to be between $500m (£318m) and $600m.