Larry Ellison’s Hawaiian Island : Lanai

I recently read an aritcle in the New York Times about a Hawaiann island owned by Larry Ellison. So I Googled it and did my own research because it’s extremely interesting.

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Lanai’s History

For thousands of years nobody lived on the island. It was ruled by a mysterious “God of Demons”. Then a chief “killed” the God of Demons. Hawaiians lived on Lanai for roughly 800 years.
Then Mormons came in 1861 led by Walter Murray Gibson. Gibson wasn’t really a Mormon, but an opportunist. He built a colony on the island and then began purchasing land with the Church’s money under his own name. He was excommunicated.

Somehow, the land was kept in Gibson’s name and passed down to his daughter and then a few other people. They tried monetizing the island, raising animals, then sugar cane, but the only crop that really grew well there were pineapples. At the time James Drummond Dole was a recent Harvard Business School grad with a new company on the island of Oahu. In 1922, Dole bought the land from Gibson’s successors for $1.1 million.

Eight years later the island was completely different. Dole built a harbor and roads, a town center with Dole Park in the middle and housing for the mainly Filipino workers. The island was now exporting about 65,000 tons of pineapples a year. Dole was a pretty nice guy, he sent landscapers to worker’s houses and built a golf course they could use. (Hey, I would have taken a gig there.)

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In 1992 the pineapple game on the island came to an end. Overseas production drove down prices, Lanai was finished. At that point the island was controlled by another American billionaire, David Murdock. It doesn’t seem like Murdock was the “people person” his predecessor was, he referred to the citizens of the island as his “children”. Murdock had the idea that since the pineapple days were over, the new economy was going to be built on tourism. He built two resorts that would eventually become run by the Four Seasons organization and the pineapple workers became hotel staff.

Things didn’t go well, tourism wasn’t as steady as the pineapple business. Murdock was pouring his own money into the island and starting cutting the jobs and neglecting his governmental duties. (As the majority landowner I guess he had these responsibilities). Murdock sold the island to its current owner.

The Pinnacle List

The community was pretty happy when they found out the island was going to be sold to Larry Ellison, a founder of Oracle and the world’s fifth wealthiest individual. Ellison put an executive team in place to run the island for him called “Pulama Lanai”.

Larry Ellison is a very unique individual and I suppose one has to be to accumulate such a massive fortune. One of his books is titled “The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison”. I wouldn’t want to be on his bad side, forget about the wealth, he’s a pretty serious businessman and just seems “stern”. (Watch his speeches on YouTube.)

(The reason I’m writing this article and doing this research is because I find this topic immensely interesting. Larry Ellison owns an entire Hawaiian island that he rarely visits. Just imagine that, amazing.)

Obviously as an island, Lanai is isolated. They depend on weekly runs to the mainland for food. They don’t have an ample fresh water supply. Ellison wants to change that. He plans on building another resort and about 50 large homes on the island. That’s the fun part.

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In order for the island to be economically viable on its own, he plans on building an “energy park” where electricity is produced with solar panels, bring back agriculture on the island and build a desalination plant to produce fresh water. He’s said to the Wall Street Journal that he wants to see the population reach 6,000.

Today, this island seems like an amazing place to live. There are some small businesses: a juice bar, a pet daycare, and Nobu restaurant at one of the hotels. Supposedly, the school has a football field where they can play “home games”. (Who do they play?)  They have two golf courses, soon they’ll have 4G cellular service and of course, beaches.

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Houses in Lanai City.

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