While your idea of a big purchase may be a new TV or a high-end barbecue with all the bells and whistles, some of the world's ultra-wealthy have another idea. Even for much of "the 1%," a private island in a prime location is out of the budget. However, for those on the upper end of the 1% bracket, it's the perfect way to vacation or invest. Here are some of the more notable individuals who purchased their own islands.
Aristotle Onassis, the late Greek shipping tycoon and husband of former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, was one of the first to purchase a private island. Skorpios, located in the Ionian Sea, was the site of Aristotle and Jackie-O's wedding, and is now owned by his granddaughter, Athina Onassis. Rumors of the island being up for sale circulated for more than a decade, but no confirmed reports of its sale have surfaced. Real estate appraisers have placed a value of more than $100 million on Skorpios.
Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison is reportedly worth $36 billion. Ellison is an avid adventurer. Not only is Ellison a licensed pilot, but he also won the America's Cup, a prestigious yacht race, in 2010, and was even a crew member for one of the races. In 2012, Ellison purchased the island of Lanai, Hawaii's sixth-largest island, from David Murdock of Dole Foods. The 88,000-acre island comes with two Four Seasons resorts, two golf courses and a stable. Although it's not known what he paid for the purchase, estimates are between $500 and $600 million in an all-cash deal.
In 1978, Virgin Empire founder Richard Branson purchased The United Kingdom's Necker Island for only a few hundred thousand dollars. Branson may call the island home, but Necker Island isn't as private as it may appear. The island is a small private resort with a $50,000 per night price tag. Necker Island made news when lightning caused a fire that severely damaged Branson's home. At the time of the fire, actress Kate Winslet was at the estate and rescued Branson's mother.
Magician David Copperfield purchased Muscha Cay, a private island with an unspoiled tropical environment stretching out more than 150 acres, complete with a 30-person staff that provides all of the amenities of an ultra-high end island experience. Only one booking is allowed at the 12-bedroom resort at any one time and rates start at $52,500 per night. Other celebrities calling nearby islands home include Nicolas Cage and Eddie Murphy.
CNN founder Ted Turner purchased St. Phillips Island in 1979 for an undisclosed amount, and Mr. Turner unexpectedly faced a boundary dispute with "The Gullah", a tribe that had purchased the neighboring St. Helena Island, and used it as a hunting and fishing ground. The island, located off the coast of South Carolina, is not open to the public. Until recently, Ted Turner was America's biggest private landowner until fellow media mogul John Malone upped his own stake of land to 2.2 million acres.
Actor Mel Gibson purchased Mago Island for a reported $15 million in 2005. The 5,400-acre island is the size of some small countries and one of the largest islands in the South Pacific. Environmentalists were concerned that Gibson may turn the island into a luxury resort. Soon after purchasing the property, Gibson said that he wanted to leave it as it was and build only a vacation home.
The Bottom Line
Not all private islands are extravagantly priced. You can purchase a small Canadian island for C$35,000 or less, but experts recommend that you take into account the much higher cost of building a property on your island. Before thinking about buying an island for your retirement, do your research first.