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Larry buys Lana'i
June 20, 2012 6:48 PM   Subscribe

Larry Ellison is buying 98% of Lanai, one of the Hawaiian Islands. Best way to protect the island and the commons? or bad precedent and an example of the tyranny of small decisions?
posted by specialk420 (68 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Isn't this the subplot of The Descendants?
posted by zardoz at 6:50 PM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Did Murdock already own all of the property?
posted by specialk420 at 6:53 PM on June 20, 2012


$500 million divided by 88,000 is less that $6K/acre. What?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:57 PM on June 20, 2012


I applied Occam's Razor and surmised that there was another billionaire rival that Larry wanted to say "suck it" to, rather than buy it for its natural beauty and recreation opportunities.

Sure enough.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:58 PM on June 20, 2012 [25 favorites]


Did anyone tell him that Ginger and Mary Ann aren't included?
posted by jonmc at 6:59 PM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


It makes sense for islands to be owned by one person because the ecosystem is so integral. You need a single owner to manage it all correctly. Otherwise end up with a tyranny of too many decision makers and gridlock. You know, the water pool on one side of the island is developed into a hotel while the grassland on the other side all the animals die because they can't get fresh water because there's only one water source. That sort of thing.
posted by stbalbach at 7:00 PM on June 20, 2012


Doesn't Ted Turner own a couple million acres somewhere? This seems like a pretty small purchase by comparison.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:03 PM on June 20, 2012


Also, the idea you could buy an entire Hawaiian island for just $500m is kind of mind blowing. I mean obviously it's kind of remote, but still. You're buying like 5% of an entire state.
It makes sense for islands to be owned by one person because the ecosystem is so integral. You need a single owner to manage it all correctly. Otherwise end up with a tyranny of too many decision makers and gridlock. You know, the water pool on one side of the island is developed into a hotel while the grassland on the other side all the animals die because they can't get fresh water because there's only one water source. That sort of thing.
Isn't that what "governments" are for?
posted by delmoi at 7:04 PM on June 20, 2012 [27 favorites]


This land is your land,
This land is my land,
From California,
To to the New York Island,
...
posted by newdaddy at 7:04 PM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


The newspaper said that Murdock had become a frustrated owner of Pineapple Island, where some residents were opposed to his plan to build windmills to provide electricity to Oahu.
*head smack*

Ah NIMBYism. Is there no problem you can't exacerbate?
posted by delmoi at 7:05 PM on June 20, 2012


On the one hand, what a dick world we live in that a prick like that can buy a whole Hawaiian island.

On the other, buying islands is exactly what prick billionaires like Ellison should buy. Instead of legislators.

I promise that if Ellison builds a dirigible port on his island and a fleet of dirigibles to go with it, I'll stop calling him a prick.
posted by notyou at 7:14 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


It makes sense for islands to be owned by one person because the ecosystem is so integral.

Like Bloomberg and Manhattan?
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:18 PM on June 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


Am I missing the significance of this? What's the connection to tyranny of small decisions?
posted by brenton at 7:22 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't that what "governments" are for?

This is the answer to, like, every libertarian talking point.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:24 PM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Tyranny of small decisions ... how many billionaires does it take to own a state?
posted by specialk420 at 7:24 PM on June 20, 2012


Scene: The Rich Person Country Club

First: Man, I'm really bummed about losing that court case. I thought I had Google on the ropes.

Second: Take your mind off it - go out and do something nice for yourself.

First: Yeah, you're right. How about Hawaii?

Second: Good thinking - a nice holiday to an exotic locale could be just the thing to lift your spirits!

First: A holiday?
posted by kithrater at 7:30 PM on June 20, 2012 [11 favorites]


What's the highest point on Lanai? I wonder if he'd be better off leasing.
posted by box at 7:30 PM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oracle queues up the coconut wireless.
posted by vozworth at 7:31 PM on June 20, 2012


There's already precedent for this sort of thing, and it's turned out rather nicely in the one instance I can think of. Catalina Island, off the coast of Los Angeles, was at one time almost entirely owned by the Wrigley family (of Chicago; the chewing gum magnates). It still kind of is, but the vast majority of the island is essentially a nature conservancy.
posted by LionIndex at 7:32 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Best way to protect the island and the commons? or bad precedent and an example of the tyranny of small decisions?

Neither, since this is a case of one billionaire selling it to another billionaire. This is most likely a "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" situation for Lanai. Lanai has been owned by rich businessmen since adventurer Walter M. Gibson acquired most of the land in the 1870's. Over the last 50 years, it shifted from an agricultural economy (i.e. pineapples) to a tourist economy. While you'd not really know it if you only visited Lanai City, which is a lovely small town, Lanai is essentially a pair of hotel and some golf courses these days. Still very beautiful, but most of the people who visit the hotels are rolling in the dough.

Anyhow, it wasn't "small decisions" that led to Lanai ultimately turning into an island owned by a single billionaire so that millionaires could cavort in the sun. It was Gibson purchasing land in the 1870's in the hopes of establishing a "Mormon colony in the Pacific."

Furthermore, while this is a great deal of natural beauty on Lanai, the presence of the hotels and golf courses means that a good deal of the island's beauty these days is man-made and landscaped. Since a large part of the draw of the island is the beauty, and the profit potential of the island rests in its ability to draw rich tourists, it is in a billionaire's best financial interest to maintain the island's well manicured landscape.
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:35 PM on June 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Maybe so he can take off and land after 11 PM without getting fined.
posted by MtDewd at 7:39 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


How does the tragedy of the commions come into this at all? I don't see any indication that Ellison is going to change anything in particular about the state of the island. There's no tragedy or commons involved here.
posted by ghharr at 7:40 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't this the subplot of The Descendants?

It's also a subplot of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, sort of.
posted by limeonaire at 7:48 PM on June 20, 2012


So a pirate buys an island with his loot eh?
posted by roboton666 at 7:48 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Google should buy the remaining 2% and erect some logos just as a fuck-you gesture.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:53 PM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


ghhrr - hmmm. Ok? So, one of the hawaiian islands doesn't fit your definition of "the commons"? Certainly there are others who might feel differently. I guess it all depends on what Larry decides to do with "his" island... It's too bad Hawaii or the people of the United States didn't/couldn't buy the Island back and make a it a true commons.
posted by specialk420 at 7:54 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


o, one of the hawaiian islands doesn't fit your definition of "the commons"?

Well, other than the size what makes this special? It was already privately owned. Now its privately owned by another person. Most land in the US is privately owned.

So I understand some people have a problem with land ownership (although thats a distinctly minority view in the US), but even by amount of land 88,000 acres is hardly unprecedented. Its mostly just because it happens to be 98% of an island that its newsworthy at all.
posted by wildcrdj at 8:08 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


wildcrdj beat me to it but yeah, while I agree that it would have made for a cool national park or something private ownership of land isn't really a new or controversial idea, to put it mildly. Even for big-ish islands.
posted by ghharr at 8:11 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah but does he have a meth lab?
posted by Napierzaza at 8:12 PM on June 20, 2012


Oracle queues up the coconut wireless.

"coconut wireless" was part of the KGMB station ID for as long as I can remember. It might not be that way any longer.

I wonder if Ellison will maintain the steam whistle that awakens everyone at the Hotel Lānai at 0530. That fucker makes a deep, loud tone and I swear I could hear secondary reverberations in the pipe. You cannot sleep through it. It must sound for a whole minute.
posted by jet_silver at 8:16 PM on June 20, 2012


Murdock is keeping his wind farm.

One of the reasons locals aren't thrilled about it is that their electricity costs are high, and the electricity being generated wouldn't be used to reduce their utility bills; it would go straight to Maui. That plus the usual complaints about wind farms.
posted by julen at 8:26 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Hawaiian island of Niihau is already privately owned.
posted by Guernsey Halleck at 8:34 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Google should buy the remaining 2% and erect some logos just as a fuck-you gesture.

The local council is never going to approve that construction!
posted by vidur at 8:36 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Larry is a sailor - In general most sailors I've met are are good stewards ... Perhaps his purchase of the island is in the interest of the commons? I guess I was asking about the idea of letting the very rich own bigger and bigger pieces of our common shared land? good idea? bad idea? If he could afford the big island should be allowed to own it and decide who can or cant go there?
posted by specialk420 at 8:39 PM on June 20, 2012


How much power does the owner of a Hawaiian island have? Can he make the island's economy run on scrip?
posted by modernserf at 8:48 PM on June 20, 2012


I actually think this kind of thing is ok. Today's billionaire ownership often becomes tomorrow's preservation trust.
posted by me & my monkey at 8:53 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah but this doesn't have anything to do with common shared land. A rich dude sold his land to another rich dude. Just like if I bought a house with a backyard I'm not appropriating common land. Ellison just got a really big backyard.
posted by ghharr at 9:01 PM on June 20, 2012


notyou: I promise that if Ellison builds a dirigible port on his island and a fleet of dirigibles to go with it, I'll stop calling him a prick.

I wouldn't, if I were you. A fleet of rich-boy toys isn't going to make that particular shoe fit any less snugly than it does now.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:02 PM on June 20, 2012


So, Larry... do you have wood for sheep?
posted by SPrintF at 9:11 PM on June 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


delmoi: "Ah NIMBYism. Is there no problem you can't exacerbate?"

It's not that simple. I was, coincidentally, on Lanai just this weekend, and I'd say that over 50% of the houses on the road from the airport upcountry had signs either supporting or opposing wind (i.e., it's a big deal with lots of community discussion), and my unscientific impression was that the visible supporters of wind outnumbered the opposers. As to those opposed to a wind farm, I don't think it's fair to paint them as NIMBYs. Most of the benefit of the wind farms (aside from employment, which on a small island like Lanai is no small thing) would go to Oahu. Lanai residents might see a small drop in their electricity bills, but that's about it. I can't blame residents for not being happy with that deal.

The concentration of property ownership in a few hands is a longstanding and widely known problem in Hawaii. In fact, the US Supreme Court's notorious Kelo decision regarding the limits of the eminent domain power followed directly from a much less well known, but equally (or perhaps more) far reaching decision, Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff, which approved of forced lease-to-fee conversions enacted expressly to break up large landholdings.
posted by lex mercatoria at 9:18 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aggressive wealth accumulation and acquisitions like this should be viewed as symptoms of a personality disorder.
posted by mlis at 9:18 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Damn it, Larry Ellison just made me spend half an hour looking for the clip from Crocodile Dundee II where the bad guy says he's going to buy Hawaii.
posted by XMLicious at 9:22 PM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


oneswellfoop It makes sense for islands to be owned by one person because the ecosystem is so integral.

Like Bloomberg and Manhattan?


Actually, Manhattan is home to 65 billionaires with a combined fortune of 244 billion.
posted by mlis at 9:25 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Let's be blunt here--if any particular billionaire had latent Bond-villain tendencies, it's Larry. Nehru jacket, Persian cat, orbital laser: next on the shopping list.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:26 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's on the other 2% of the island and where do the 3,200 residents live? Is Ellison the new landlord for most of these residents? And if a bunch of that 2% of land is actually public highways, public spaces and a state-owned airport, does it even make sense for the Hawaii tax-payers to be paying for their maintenance? Should Hawaii just hand the bills directly to Ellison?
posted by rh at 10:09 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fucking haole.
posted by Relay at 10:46 PM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Protect the commons"? One guy buying the whole thing is the very opposite of common holding.

It's not any different than any other private land ownership, except in that there's a minimum possibility of property line disputes, but I don't even understand how the commons could come into it. (I think rh raises some interesting questions.)
posted by gingerest at 10:58 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is bananas.
posted by lostburner at 11:13 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait til the Native sovereignty bill passes.

As usual, no one mentions that this land wasn't a commons before white men ever showed up and claimed it as such.
posted by spitbull at 11:16 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


If any particular billionaire had latent Bond-villain tendencies, it's Larry.

Isn't Lana'i a volcano?
posted by ryanrs at 11:30 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Most of the benefit of the wind farms (aside from employment, which on a small island like Lanai is no small thing) would go to Oahu. Lanai residents might see a small drop in their electricity bills, but that's about it. I can't blame residents for not being happy with that deal.
Did you forget the whole "preventing global warming" thing? Yes, one wind farm is kind of a minor deal, but this crap happens everywhere, and it's a major impediment. It's likely a wind farm would displace fossil fuel burning plants.
posted by delmoi at 11:34 PM on June 20, 2012


One of the more informative and drolly amusing MetaFilter threads I've read in a while...
posted by KokuRyu at 11:42 PM on June 20, 2012


Isn't Lana'i a volcano?

It's a dead volcano. No longer active and never will be.
posted by gen at 12:01 AM on June 21, 2012


How much power does the owner of a Hawaiian island have? Can he make the island's economy run on scrip?
posted by modernserf


Eponysterical!

I think Ellison should shut off all contact with the mainland (but not the rest of Hawaiʻi, come on, it's the aloha state), and open a secret research lab dedicated to cloning Dean Kamen via DNA recovered from the ink used to print Wired magazine.
posted by No-sword at 12:22 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's Larry. Nehru jacket, Persian cat, orbital laser: next on the shopping list.

Mebbe Ill-Tempered Mutant Sea Bass?
posted by lampshade at 12:24 AM on June 21, 2012


See also Palmyra Atoll (now owned most by The Nature Conservancy, previously by a series of American private individuals). Unlike Lana'i, it has no permanent inhabitants and is not part of any other state or territory of the US, and falls directly under the authority of the US Department of the Interior.
posted by dhens at 1:14 AM on June 21, 2012


What are Ellison's environmental views? Can he be trusted to preserve the place and not start building runways, swimming pools, casinos, and a tower tall enough to see California from?
posted by pracowity at 1:26 AM on June 21, 2012


Lanai has been owned by rich businessmen since adventurer Walter M. Gibson...

Oh. Walter M. Gibson... for a moment I was seized by the desperate hope that this was the Walter Gibson who wrote The Shadow, that he had gotten insanely rich off pulp adventure novels and bought his own island. But no. That was Walter B, Gibson.

different guy entirely...

sigh...
posted by Naberius at 6:45 AM on June 21, 2012


I have had all of the disadvantages required for success.

I am the 98%.

occupylanai.org
posted by Kabanos at 7:23 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, Walter Gibson. I thought you meant Henry Gibson, a.k.a. Obersturmbannführer Robert Burliss
posted by wenestvedt at 7:43 AM on June 21, 2012


Is it one of the good ones, or one of the leper ones?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:09 AM on June 21, 2012


Is it one of the good ones, or one of the leper ones?

Molokai is the island with Kalaupapa, where some cured but scarred former Hansen's Disease sufferers still reside.

---

If you want to talk Tyranny of Small Decisions, perhaps something like that happened when William Gibson original purchased the land in the 1860's and 70's. Presumably, somebody (whether it was Hawaiian ali'i or commoners) sold him the land, figuring that the short term profit from the sale was a better deal than owning the land long term.

Now, 150 years later, the descendants of those sellers presumably don't have the resources to (or, if they do, the interest in) buying back Lanai. Castle and Cooke (formerly Dole) has owned the island for nearly one hundred years.

Many residents of Lanai resisted Kamehameha's rule when he first conquered and united the islands (using Western weapons) and were put to death. The island was resettled during his reign.

The current population of Lanai are descendants of the both the original and Kamehameha era Hawaiians, descendants of plantation culture (Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese and Filipino immigrants as well as the Caucasians), and individuals and families that moved there to work at the hotels and golf courses. Some of them own houses but lease the land the house is on. They likely had zero say in who purchased the 98% of Lanai that was for sale.

My point being, in the current situation, only two entities made significant decisions - the entity (Castle and Cooke) that decided to sell and the entity (Ellison or whatever corporate thingy he used to buy it) that decided to buy. This is why I dispute the use of the term "tyranny of small decisions" in terms of this particular sale, though as I said an argument can be made that this is the long term (current) end result of some small decisions that were made in the 19th century.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:18 PM on June 21, 2012


Larry is a fucking prick. Yeah, go ahead and buy up the island where Bill and Melinda got married, if that makes you feel superior. Remember why Melanie left, you selfish little small-minded megalomaniacal greedy dim-witted shit, and go off and bang some whores who like your billions. Or buy Molokai, where lepers like you belong.

Clearly not a fan of Larry Ellison. Sorry to rant.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:12 AM on June 22, 2012


I realize now that in my previous comment I may have offended some lepers by comparing them to Larry Ellison, and for that I apologize.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:17 AM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Today's billionaire ownership often becomes tomorrow's preservation trust.

Would be interesting to take a look some data on this one ... what are the most likely outcomes of these types of purchases by the super rich? and how do we encourage them to the right thing? the whole bill & melinda thing is kind of weird. good discussion here.
posted by specialk420 at 2:09 PM on June 22, 2012


Lanai has been owned by rich businessmen since adventurer Walter M. Gibson acquired most of the land in the 1870's.

Gibson is an wonderfully interesting character, and made for even better copy than Ellison during his day. A chapter in my book details much of Gibson's life during the period that Joey Michaels references in his comment above.
posted by Scoop at 2:44 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh! You've researched him! Why didn't his Mormon colony ever take hold on Lanai? It actually seemed like a pretty smart plan, all things considered.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:50 PM on June 22, 2012


Not a good plan, mind you, just a smart plan.</small)
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:50 PM on June 22, 2012


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