David Murdock, who founded and oversees the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, N.C., has sold off a significant part of his empire – a Hawaiian island.
The buyer is Larry Ellison, chief executive officer of Oracle and one of the world’s richest men.
Murdock, who also owns Dole Foods, didn’t disclose the selling price. The deal was announced earlier this week.
The transaction is valued in the “hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to an application filed as part of the sale. In a statement, Murdock, 89, said he would keep his home on the island and retain rights to develop a wind energy farm there.
Ellison is buying 98 percent of the island named Lanai.
“I believe that Larry Ellison will bring a new and fresh perspective to the island and its people,” Murdock said. “As a property owner on Lanai, I will continue to be a member of the community and will be looking forward to its future.”
Lanai, Hawaii’s sixth-largest island with an area of 141 square miles (365 square kilometers), is owned and developed by billionaire Murdock’s Castle & Cooke Inc. since 1985.
Ellison’s software industry rival Bill Gates married his wife Melinda on the island in 1994.
“It is my understanding that Mr. Ellison has had a long standing interest in Lanai,” Governor Neil Abercrombie said in a statement. “His passion for nature, particularly the ocean is well known specifically in the realm of America’s Cup sailing.”
Castle & Cooke Inc. delivered letters to Lanai employees, informing them of the sale and that they’ll all be retained by Ellison, with all contracts being transferred, English said.
That’s comforting to English and Lanaians who wonder what the ostentatious and eclectic software magnate has in store for the island and its tourism-driven economy.
“I’m getting a nice feeling that they’re coming into it with sensitivity,” English said. “It’s much more than just an investment.”
The sale includes two resort hotels, two championship golf courses and club houses, more than 88,000 acres of land including a 600-acre residential development, a solar farm, parks and utilities, according to an application filed by Castle & Cooke with Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission requesting interim approval for the sale by June 26 so it can close the transaction the following day.
Ellison is the world’s sixth-richest man, with an estimated net worth of $36.4 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Gates is the second-richest man with a fortune of $62 billion.
The island has 47 miles of coastline and is accessible from neighboring islands by helicopter and small planes. It has no stoplights and 93 percent of the 430 miles of roads are unpaved. More than 3,200 residents live there and about 26,000 tourists visited the island in the first quarter of this year, according to the state.
The sale creates “an extraordinary opportunity for the people and Island of Lanai to bring in new investment to the island of Lanai that should result in the creation of new jobs, provide local economic stimulus and reinvigorate the local tourism industry,” the application said.
(Bloomberg and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)