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Billionaire Ellison books Hawaiian getaway, buys island of Lanai

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A county of nearby Maui, Lanai is known as "The Pineapple Island." The majority of the land there was once owned by James Dole of Dole Food Co. Inc., who bought it in 1922.

The rich really are different from you and me. We go to Hawaii. They buy Hawaii.

Billionaire Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is buying 98 percent of the island of Lanai, the so-called “Pineapple Island.”

The land’s current owner, Castle & Cooke Inc., filed a transfer application Wednesday with the state’s public utilities commission, which regulates utilities on the island that serve its two resorts.

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. Ellison plans to pay cash according to the documents and reinvigorate the local tourism industry.

Unfortunately the documents didn’t say how much Ellison is paying. The Maui News reported the asking price was $500 million to $600 million. What’s $100 million when you’re buying an island, anyway? Especially since Ellison has had no qualms about buying toys. Including a 454-foot yacht, McClaren F1 supercar, a bunch of planes and a tennis tournament. To start.

An Oracle spokesperson said the company doesn’t comment on Ellison’s personal business.

Ellison doesn’t always get what he wants. His repeated attempts to buy an NBA team have failed. Most recently when he lost our a bidding war for his hometown Golden State Warriors in 2010.

Self-made billionaire David Murdock, who owns Castle & Cooke, said he would keep his home on Lanai and the right to build a wind farm, a contentious project that would place windmills on as many as 20 square miles of the island and deliver power to Oahu through an undersea cable.

The 2 percent Ellison isn’t buying is owned by the state, county and private residents.

With nearly 50 miles of coastline, two resorts and zero traffic lights, Lanai boasts plenty of unspoiled charm. Tourism officials tout the luxury at its Four Seasons hotels and rugged rural areas that can only be reached by vehicles with four-wheel drive. About 2,000 people live there. The majority of the island was once owned by James Dole of Dole Food Co. Inc., who bought it in 1922.

Ellison, 67, was No. 6 on Forbes list of richest humans -- the third American-- this year with an estimated net worth of $36 billion.

Below, KHNL’s Jim Mendoza talks with Lanai residents about the purchase. Their overriding sentiment: Who is Larry Ellison?


The Associated Press contributed to this report.