In 2012, billionaire Larry Ellison, the big real estate spender who made his fortune by founding the tech giant Oracle, bought the vast majority of the Hawaiian island of Lanai for around $300M. Finally, two years later, The New York Times has a truly amazing look at what exactly the guy wants to do with his 87,000-acre purchase, a holding so large it includes the island's two resorts, a wastewater treatment plant, a cemetery, and the community center. In fact, "only a handful of businesses" (including a gas station and a cafe) don't pay rent or otherwise report to the fifth-richest man in the world. So what exactly is the story behind Ellison—a man once called "a modern-day Genghis Kahn" and whose biography is called The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison—and his Hawaiian island? Let's break it down:
10. Ellison wants to turn it into "the first economically viable, 100 percent green community" and a hugely popular tourist destination.
9. To do that he'll be incorporating "renewable energy, electric cars, and sustainable agriculture." He's once said he sees Lanai as "this really cool 21st-century engineering project."
8. There will, naturally, be a third resort on the island, as well as a complex of 50 (or so) private estates.
7. He owns at least 380 cats under the care of his animal-rescue center. The feral cat population in Lanai is explosive because "there are no natural predators" on the island.
6. He'll be expanding the airport (he already bought an airline) and building a desalination plant to make saltwater drinkable.
5. He plans to create an "energy park" wherein solar panels and algae will work to funnel energy into the electrical system.
4. He will "bring commercial agriculture back to the island, in fields outfitted with sensors to control fertilization and irrigation, so that Lanai could begin to feed itself and even export products."
3. There's also been talk of organic wineries and flower farms.
2. Ellison wants to improve healthcare, but also bring in a lot more frivolity, like a bowling alley, a 22-acre movie studio, and, peculiarly, "a top-flight, residential tennis academy for competitive youth."
1. Still, the most interesting thing the piece sheds light on is probably the fact that the residents of the island seem to love Ellison, even though he rarely interacts with them. A captain of a fishing-boat says "he's taking care of us over here." An even more extreme example:
"Inside the island's Catholic church, a priest in a purple robe, surrounded by children, says: 'Heavenly father. . . . We ask for your blessings for Mr. Ellison, particularly, and those who work with him, that all the good plans and intentions that he has for Lanai be fruitful.'" Anyway, read the whole amazing thing, this way.
· Larry Ellison Bought an Island in Hawaii. Now What? [NYT]
· All Larry Ellison Posts [Curbed National]