The photo above, which was taken on Lanai a few decades ago, dates to a time when the Dole Pineapple empire ran Lanai. But the attitude very much remains, according to a major New York Times Magazine story on Lanai and its new owner Larry Ellison that dropped today.
A few days ago, Ellison–reportedly worth $46 billion–retired as CEO of Oracle, a major tech company that Ellison helped found. Whether that means Ellison–the latest in a series of white men who owned virtually the entire island–will devote more time to his “really cool 21st century engineering project”–which is how he characterizes his ownership of 98 percent of Lanai–remains to be seen. Finding out what Ellison, and his company Pulama Lanai, which manages the island–has in store was the point of the Times piece, but as reporter Jon Mooallem discovered, that’s a tough task. Ellison’s Lanai is a virtual company town, and that means pesky, Mainland reporters aren’t to be trusted:
“Roughly half of the adults on the island are employed by Pulama Lanai or its hotels, and nearly everyone else, it seems, has a sister or uncle who is–or else relies on the company indirectly for a livelihood or lives in a house that Pulama Lanai owns. Lots of people told me that they were instructed not to talk to reporters or that they just didn’t want to risk upsetting the company. One young man delivered a long, seemingly rehearsed preamble, insisting that he absolutely had to remain anonymous and that any opinions he expressed were his alone and did not reflect the views of either Pulama Lanai or his employer, which did business with Pulama and which I also shouldn’t name. I expected something inflammatory, but his opinion was this: ‘There’s lots of complainers–some people aren’t happy–but they don’t realize how much they have. It’s just awesome!'”
Mooallem’s story has tons of reporting on Lanai locals who love Ellison and a few others not so sure about his intentions or ability to follow through on some of the more lavish elements of his vision (for example, Mooallem reports that on Sept. 12, Pulama Lanai suddenly stopped building a big desalination plant, apparently because the company was simply tired of dealing with residential concerns). It’s a long read, but a solid one.
Click here to read the story.
1973 photo of kapu sign on Lanai: National Archives/Wikimedia Commons