Huh. Larry Ellison is buying the island of Lanai.

The article I’m reading is not disclosing the purchase price but says it’s in the “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Larry’s got many billions, so this is a drop in the Pacific Ocean, so to speak.

Here’s the article.

My husband worked on one of his expenditures here on the peninsula: a $200 million Japanese estate in the forest community of Woodside. I think Larry plans a couple of Four Seasons hotels on Lanai, but I’m still reading.

My thoughts, exactly. But then again, it’s not like he bought it from the State of Hawai’i - it was already privately owned, by a corporation:

How does this happen?

How does what happen?

I mean, how does the situation happen? How does it come to be the case that an entire island, with a small town’s worth of people living on it, is privately owned? I know that there are whole towns all over the U.S. that are privately owned, but that seems weird to me, too. I guess I can imagine if someone bought a bunch of land from the government at some point, or maybe even owned it before it became part of the U.S., and they allowed people to build on it, and it just kept passing to new owners, then…

But how does that work, then? Who manages things like utilities, roads, and so on? What role, if any, does local and state government play? In the article, for instance, it says:

So it seems they’re subject to his whims, basically. I guess that’s the risk you take when you live in a privately owned town, but as I said, it just strikes me as weird.

According to Wikipedia, most of the island’s been privately owned since the 1870’s. I have no idea why there was never a concerted effort to bring it back to public control (though considering owner #2 was the man for whom Dole was named, I can at least guess).

Eh, there are people who own cattle ranches ten times the size of Lanai. There’s certainly a lot of cachet to owning an island, but it’s just like owning any other parcel of land. This just happens to be surrounded by water.

As to the people living there, plenty of folks have bought land for the purpose of building residential developments to rent out. You may be familiar with the concept of an apartment building, for example. That doesn’t make the local government magically disappear. The owner of the land isn’t the king. Utilities have right-of-way and are regulated by the state government same as anywhere else. I imagine most of the roads are privately built, but maybe they aren’t. The article said that the State of Hawaii does own 2% of the land on the island.

I guess it might seem sort of odd because the land is in the form of an island, but it’s not really very different from any other relatively large piece of private property.

At 141 square miles, or about 90,000 acres, it’s not even that large on the scale of big landholdings. It’s only just over one-tenth of the size of America’s largest ranch (the 800,000-acre King Ranch in Texas). And it’s positively diminutive compared to the largest single property in Australia, Anna Creek, which is almost 6,000,000 acres.

Pretty much the usual way, I imagine. A Buyer makes an offer to a Seller, they sign a purchase contract, the title is transferred and recorded.

Right! He was instrumental in the overthrow of Queen Liliʻuokalani - no prizes for guessing why - and was made president of the newly declared Republic of Hawai’i. But I didn’t realize he actually owned it; I thought he just governed it.

This is very educational!

So you think he’ll enact droit du seigneur?

Owning Huge Tracts of Land isn’t unusual. Owmning Huge Tracts of United States Land that have a town and public schools in it seems very weird. It’d be like Ben Cartwright allowing a Nevada town and government offices to exist on the Ponderosa.
It’s always bothrered me that the Hawaiian island of Niihau is privately owned, but it doesn’t have towns or government offices. The military uses the island sometimes, but has no permanent base:

My understanding is that for many years the island was owned by the Dole company and they grew pineapples on it.

Yea, having your secret evil-lair on a cattle ranch doesn’t sound anywhere near as cool.

Not exactly. It was directly owned by the guy who started Dole Pineapple. The company never owned it.

Wasn’t Lanai the island with all the leper colonies? You’d think that would drive down the property values by quite a bit.

Nope, that’s Molokai.

Larry Ellison: One Hawaiian island. Good ones, not the leper one.

I live in a private town. I own my property, but we are not citizens, we are customers. Electricity, airport, streets, security, aqueduct, emergency service, firefighters, etc. are all owned by the company that owns our town. It’s a weird feeling, it’s closer to a benevolent dictatorship than a democracy.

It has its advantages.

Such as?

See, this is exactly the kind of thing I’m curious about. Does the company impose taxes (or “charge fees”, I guess) for community services? Does the town actually generate a profit for them? Is there a mayor? A city council? A school board? What kind of recourse do people have if they don’t like how something is done? Does the company allow “competition” for the services they provide, or do they not really have a say? I can imagine they might, for instance, be able to prevent someone from building another airport or power plant. But what if someone wanted to start their own public emergency service or security business? And what (if anything) does the company do, aside from owning the town? If it were, say, Coca-Cola, I can see how they might refuse to allow any businesses in the town to sell beverages from other manufacturers. I’d love to hear more about how this all works.