No one knows what Larry Ellison's plans are for the Hawaiian Island of Lanai but he sure has taken on a boatload of problems.
Most billionaires buy private islands to get away from people. But Lanai is home to about 3,000 people, mostly living in Lanai City, since 98 percent of the island was privately owned by Castle and Cooke (Dole).
Plus, the island makes its living from tourism, with about 75,000 visitors a year.
That's a lot of people trooping through paradise.
Lanai was once known as the pineapple island. But the previous billionaire owner, David Murdock (who got his stake in Lanai when he rescued Castle and Cook from bankruptcy in 1985), shifted directions for Lanai. He ended the pineapple farms (less than 100 acres remain) and built two luxury resorts.
They've been a disaster, losing $20 million to $30 million a year, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser previously reported. At one point, Murdock contemplated shifting directions again and building a wind farm on Lanai to it to sell electricity to Maui. The locals hated that idea, too.
So, Ellison's island isn't private and needs $20 million to keep it afloat. At one point, critics said it was a "fantasy" to even think the property was sell-able.
Plus residents are starting to lobby Ellison for favors as if he were the king. He's not. Lanai is very much part of the United States. Reports NPR:
"Working-class residents on Lanai want stable jobs. Affordable housing. No onerous restrictions on hunting or fishing. A return to agriculture. Improved transportation to Maui, Oahu and other islands given an airport with limited flights. Even simple things like the reopening of the community pool."
Good luck with this one, Larry. The people of your not-so-private island are depending on you.
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