Richard Branson’s $70 Million Caribbean Mansion on Necker Island
Branson first became aware that some of the islands in the British Virgin Islands were for sale in 1979. In 1978 he went to the British Virgin Islands for a holiday in order to investigate the prospective real estate. On first observing the islands, he envisioned using them to put up rock stars for his record label. Upon arrival, they were given a luxury villa and travelled around islands for sale by helicopter.
The final island he saw was Necker Island, and after climbing the hill and being stunned by the view and wildlife, fell in love with the island. After making a lowball bid of £100,000 for the £5 million island, however, he was turned down and evicted from the island. A while later, the owner, Lord Cobham, in need of short-term capital, eventually settled for £180,000 after Richard Branson had offered his final price of £175,000 three months before the actual sale took place. However, the Government imposed a relatively common restriction on alien landholders; that the new owner had to develop a resort within five years or the island would revert to the state. Branson committed, determined to build a resort on his tropical dream island, notwithstanding his relatively modest capital at that time in his career.
When Branson bought the 74-acre (300,000 m2) island, it was uninhabited. He purchased the island at the age of 28, just six years after starting Virgin Group. It took 3 years and approximately US$10 million to turn it into a private island retreat.
Using local stone, Brazilian hardwoods, antiques, art pieces and fabrics and bamboo furniture from Bali the architects and designers created a 10 bedroom Balinese-style villa crowning a hill above the beach.
Each of the 10 bedrooms has open walls giving a 360-degree view and cooling winds from any direction in the house. The island has accommodation for 28 people and rents out at US$53,000 to $54,000 a day. All that includes two “private” beaches, private pools, tennis courts, breathtaking views, a personal chef, a team of about 60 staff and a wide array of water sports equipment.
The island is available for weddings, relaxation breaks, sports vacations and even complete rentals for any purpose. One of the high profile recent guests is Larry Page, Google’s billionaire co-founder, who married his girlfriend, Lucy Southworth, on the island in early December 2007. Page rented a majority of Virgin Gorda as well, as Necker was far too small to fit his 600+ guest party.
In the early hours of Monday, August 22, 2011, The Great House, as it was called, burned down in a fire believed to be caused by lightning from Tropical Storm Irene. The house was occupied at the time by as many as 20 guests, with Branson himself staying in a residence nearby. All 20 of the guests escaped unhurt from the burning house, which was said to have been totally destroyed, according to Branson. Among the 20 occupants were actress Kate Winslet, along with Sir Richard’s 90-year-old mother Eve and his 29-year-old daughter Holly, when the blaze broke out in the early hours of the morning.