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Millionaire Hideaways

Three private-island owners talk about their unique seaside sanctuaries
Carrie Loranger Gaska
From the Print Edition:
Andy Garcia, Mar/April 2004

(continued from page 1)

When he flew over the uninhabited Necker Island during a helicopter tour, he was immediately captivated by the reef and beautiful beaches surrounding the rocky, 74-acre land mass. “There was this pristine, clear sea and I’d never seen anything so beautiful in my life,” he recalls.

But when it came time to talk finances, the island’s seller, who needed capital to build property in Scotland, wanted $5 million and Branson was only offering $100,000. “So then the helicopter was taken away, the house was taken away, and we had to hitch back to the airport,” says Branson. “[But] about nine months later they rang up and said, well, if I made it $300,000, then I could have the island because nobody else had come to see it.”

Branson has always been slightly unconventional, not only in his approach to life but also in his work habits. He began his first business, an advisory center for young people in trouble, in a church crypt with a coffin for a chair. When he launched Virgin Records in 1973, he graduated to a houseboat. “I worked from the houseboat, lived on the houseboat for a number of years and had my children on the houseboat in Little Venice in the center of London. Poor Joan. If I had a business meeting she would have to retreat to the bedroom with the children, and that went on for years,” says Branson.

For Branson, the island is one of his many homes that double as his office space. He also owns Ulusaba Private Game Reserve in South Africa and is opening a new property, Kasbah Tamadat, in Morocco in late 2004.

He justifies the luxury of Necker by allowing other people to use it when he’s not there. Anyone with the wherewithal can rent the property, which costs between $23,750 to $38,000 per day depending on the number of guests.

“The nice thing is that we share it and have all kinds of wonderful people come and enjoy it when we’re not here. I get enormous pleasure from bringing friends out to Necker, but it’s all about getting the right balance,” he says. “If you’re on an island, you’re completely in touch with nature, and you can pull up the drawbridge and have your friends and family there, and you’ve got privacy if you’re a celebrity, and you can let your hair down and stay up until the wee hours of the morning and basically do as you wish.”

For Branson, owning a private island means he not only has a home and an office, but also an eternal playground. “I can’t think of anywhere more special in the world and I’ve traveled all over the world.”

 

Brian Hew -- Kamalame Cay, Andros, The Bahamas

For Brian Hew, work, life, pleasure and everything in between blend together and Kamalame Cay, the island he owns in the Bahamas with his wife, Jenny, is where it all happens. Unlike many private island owners, Hew lives a stone’s throw away from his island full-time and does everything from clearing brush from the beach to building guest villas.


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