Oracle CEO Larry Ellison purchased close to 98 percent of the 141 square-mile Hawaiian island of Lanai for $500 million four months ago from billionaire David Murdock in June for an undisclosed price. On the island, Ellison owns “two resorts and golf courses, a variety of commercial and residential structures and vast acres of former pineapple fields that now rest undeveloped.”
The island has 3,000 residents who have no idea what Ellison’s plans were since he purchased the island. Last week, in an interview on CNBC’s “Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo“, Ellison has revealed that he has plans to turn the island into a sustainable paradise with electric cars, organic farms, and solar power.
“What we are going to do is turn Lanai into a model for sustainable enterprise,” said Ellison, one of the world’s richest men, to Maria Bartiromo. “I own the water utility, I own the electric utility. The electric utility is all going to be solar photovoltaic and solar thermal where it can convert sea water into fresh water.”
But it’s not just running the island on solar power and using solar thermal to run a desalination to produce fresh water–there will be organic farming, too:
“We have drip irrigation where we are going to have organic farms all over the island. Hopefully we are going to export produce — really the best, organic produce to Japan and elsewhere. We are going to support the local people and help them start these businesses. We will have electric cars. So it’s going to be a little, if you will, laboratory for sustainability in businesses of small scale.”
An ‘eco lab’ with electric cars, solar power, and organic farming sounds like an environmental dream come true, but skeptics are rightfully pointing out that Ellison has not done right by the people on the island. At no point did the CEO speak with the community to inform them of the changes he plans to make, to hear their concerns and address their fears or even get community feedback.
That said, Reuters has reported that most residents seem to be on board with Ellison’s plan. What’s more, some citizens have even supported Ellison’s decision to not hold a community meeting since former owner David Murdock’s “public meetings left some residents frustrated when plans didn’t materialize.”
Alberta de Jetley, owner of Lanai’s Bennie’s Farm, pointed out that Ellison recently refurbished the island’s public pool, recreation center, and upgraded workers’ housing around the island. She told Reuters:
We have been working towards sustainability for years. We know tourism alone can’t sustain Lanai. We all understand this has to happen. Ellison is doing it the right way, not making promises that don’t get fulfilled.