Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting Knackered on Necker Island !

When Sir Richard Branson needs to chill out from his collection of companies that are as diverse as air travel, fitness, financial services, publishing, mobiles, media and music, he retreats to his private island in the warm Caribbean Sea. Necker Island is located in the British Virgin (coincidentally) Islands just north of Virgin Gorda. The island was named after the 17th Century Dutch commander, Johannes de Neckere. It was never inhabited in its long history, according to archaeologists.

In 1978, Sir Richard, then 24 years old and on the way up with his Virgin Record Stores, discovered and put a lowball bid of 200,000 pounds for the 3 million pound island. He was promptly told where to go by the owner, Lord Cobham. A while later, the good Lord, in need of short-term cash eventually settled for 180,000 pounds! However, there was a catch. The Government, seeing a new tourist opportunity, declared that new owner had to develop a resort within five years or the island would revert to the state.

Since Sir Richard purchased Necker Island, there has been a gradual and ongoing programme of improvements to the island's facilities totaling more than US $20 million. Unfortunately not to the overall delight from the Virgin Islands government. They took exception to his gross occupation of the island with huts and buildings. Their idea for a resort was for a nice discrete layout of buildings along the best beach on the island while leaving the greater part of the island in its natural (primeval) state.

He developed several residences in addition to the "Great House", an airy Balinese Villa, smaller one-bedroom Balinese houses, more intimate Bali Cottages and two tennis courts, a heliport and two pools with paths crisscrossing the island to connect everything. To sooth the government's ire he used the last five years spending millions more to ensure Necker Island is as "green"as it possibly can be. He ended up being back in favour. According to some reports, the island is currently valued at around US$106 million!

Necker Island has a young, trendy staff of approximately 60 people. Seven thousand people stay every year. Famous guests have included Princess Diana, Janet Jackson, Harrison Ford, Mariah Carey, Eddie Murphy, Oprah Winfrey and Larry Page, Google's billionaire co-founder even married on the island. Guests travel from the nearest islands by high-speed boat; Virgin Gorda (15 minutes) or Beef Island (30 minutes). If guests prefer, they can travel by helicopter directly to the island.

Branson's island can accommodate 28 people at US $54, 500 per night with a MINIMUM stay of 5 nights! The cost for individuals and couples is $2000 per person per night with a 2.5% service charge and an added surcharge for stays over Christmas, New Year and Easter. It is the all-inclusive private island resort with endless choices in the range of water sports available. You name it.....and it is there for you to try. And as a special surprise you might find Sir Richard or a family member joining you.

Necker Island is Richard Branson's home and he tries to spend as much time on the island as he can with his family. However, he visits the island more times during the year than his family can. So, as a typical male that is king of his domain, he likes to party and push the envelop in various sports to let off to say. (see photo) Can you blame him?

The Way I See It....Sir Richard Branson's empire and indeed his life might seem beyond comprehension for us mere mortals but his engaging personality allows us to admire him for his accomplishments and not envy him. Richard Branson created the world famous and trusted brand name Virgin, which now encompasses approximately 200 branded companies. He has developed a reputation for value, quality, innovation, fun and a sense of competitive challenge. Branson has no limitations with Virgin.

Those of us admirers who live in Australia, particularly in Queensland, can enjoy a taste of Necker Island by visiting his Australian holiday home--a heart-shaped island in the middle of the Noosa River. It's called Makepeace Island and is in a similar Balinese-style sprawling across nearly 9 hectares. He bought it for nearly $3 million in 2002 after spotting the site on a weekend trip up the Noosa River. As luck would have was up for sale. Makepeace Island is fully serviced by boat and the stay-over price tag matches its exclusivity, with the daily rate ranging from AU $7900 for up to eight guests in the low season and up to AU$16,900 for a maximum 22 guests in the high season.

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