A private Island. The ultimate property status symbol. Seldom in more demand than the present day.
Richard Branson, Marlon Brando and Malcolm Forbes all created their own Private Island Kingdoms for privacy and tranquility.
Of Roman emperor Tiberius’s many island holdings, the best known is southern Italy’s Capri. He set up house there in A.D. 26, after soothsayers warned him that remaining in Rome would be unwise. The forbidding cliffs and elevated rocky terrain of Capri afforded him the security he sought; it was also a great place to throw a party. Tiberius built 12 villas on the island, where, legend has it, he lured pretty young things for beach-side bacchanalia that still inspire some visitors today.
Fleeing the public frenzy that surrounded the kidnapping and death of his son, aviator Charles Lindbergh retreated to an isolated archipelago off the coast of northern France. There he discovered and eventually bought the four-acre Île Illiec for $16,000. To make the settlement even more secluded, Lindbergh blanketed the island with cypress and pine trees. Still private, Île Illiec is now owned by the Heidsieck Champagne family.
Shipping magnate and second husband of Jackie Kennedy, Aristotle Onassis bought the Greek island of Scorpios in 1962 for approximately $13,000. The mostly private island is home to three villas and two public beaches and is Onassis’s final resting place. The island is currently for sale: Granddaughter Athina Roussel put it on the market last summer.
While filming Mutiny on the Bounty in French Polynesia, Marlon Brando fell in love with the area and bought the atoll of Tetiaroa in 1965. The 12 slivers of land, just north of Tahiti, offered sanctuary to not only the star: Daughter Cheyenne confined herself there following the 1990 murder of her lover, and in June of last year, Brando deeded one of the secluded islets to embattled pop star Michael Jackson. A luxury resort, The Brando, is slated to open on Tetiaroa in 2008.
In the 1960s, actor John Wayne bought the crescent-shaped island of Taborcillo, off the coast of Panama. Amid its densely packed flora are mango trees planted by the Duke himself. The development company that now controls Taborcillo has divided the island into residential plots, but its main streets were designed in Old West style as a tribute to Wayne.
Inspired by his pal the late Marlon Brando, actor Johnny Depp bought a 45-acre island in the Bahamas for $3 million. He calls it F**k Off Island but it is better known as Little Hall’s Pond Cay, which has six beaches, a lagoon, and a harbor, is accessible only by boat or helicopter. But Depp doesn’t exactly seem interested in visitors when he’s there.
Publisher Malcolm Forbes purchased the Fijian island of Laucala in 1972 for $1 million. He effectively became governor of the 300-strong indigenous population and undertook a number of public works projects, from rehabilitating the coconut-processing plant to building schools and houses. When Forbes died in 1990, his ashes were buried on the island’s highest point. Laucala now belongs to Dietrich Mateschitz, inventor of Red Bull soda.
Reeling from the effects of super-stardom, Agnetha Faltskog, the blond A in the band ABBA, took refuge on the forested island of Ekerö, near Stockholm, in the mid-1980s. She has spent much of the past two decades in relative seclusion at her mansion there, shielding herself from overzealous fans, including a former lover turned stalker. Last year, Faltskog finally emerged to record and release a solo album.
Singer Diana Ross married into the island lifestyle in 1986 when she wed Norwegian shipping magnate Arne Naess. At the time, Naess shared the Tahitian island of Taino with New Zealand business associate Douglas Myers and his wife, a Tahitian princess. Each couple built a luxurious home from local materials and planted extensive tropical gardens. Following Ross’s split with Naess in 1999, their share of Taino went on the market. In 2000, Myers sold his half.
Ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev bought Li Galli, a three-island archipelago off the Amalfi Coast, from a choreographer in 1988. The largest isle had previously served as a luxe hideaway for the architect Le Corbusier, and centuries earlier as a stomping ground for Tiberius. Today, it has a six-bedroom house, a heliport, a lighthouse, and a palatial tower that Nureyev restored and outfitted with a dance studio. The archipelago was auctioned off following Nureyev’s death in 1993 (all of the proceeds went to his Ballet Promotion Foundation) and is currently available for rent (www.vladi-private-islands.de).
Earlier this year, the government of Fiji approved movie mogul Mel Gibson’s bid to buy Mago, an eight-square-mile island surrounded by 650-foot cliffs and protective reefs. The sale infuriated a tribe of 500 indigenous Fijians, who say that their ancestors were forced off the island in the 1800s by settlers who offered them only 2,000 coconuts—far less than the $20 million Gibson paid the Japanese company that owned it.