Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison has moved to Lanai, the Hawaiian island he's spent half a billion dollars developing. Here's how Ellison bought 98% of the island and turned it into a sustainability experiment.

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Larry Ellison Lanai
The island of Lanai from above. Andre Seale/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images; Noah Berger/Reuters
  • Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison bought 98% of Lanai in 2012 for an estimated $300 million.

  • Ellison is hoping to turn Lanai into a wellness utopia through his company, Sensei.

  • Now, Ellison lives in Lanai full-time and plans to use "the power of Zoom" to work from the island.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison is making the Pineapple Island his full-time home.

Ellison revealed last year that he has moved to Lanai, Hawaii, amid the coronavirus pandemic. He plans to use "the power of Zoom to work" from the island, he wrote in an email to Oracle employees, who had been asking about Ellison's plans in the wake of Oracle moving its headquarters to Austin, Texas.

Video: Billionaires saw their net worth increase during the pandemic

Ellison owns almost the entirety of Lanai: He purchased nearly 98% of the island in 2012 for a reported $300 million - his purchase included 87,000 of the island's 90,000 acres of land.

Read more: Oracle's TikTok victory highlights Larry Ellison's reputation as a 'sharp-elbows entrepreneur' who experts say has benefited from his embrace of Trump: 'Larry's politics are good business'

Lanai, which is home to about 3,200 residents, is the smallest inhabited island in Hawaii and is home to serene beaches, rugged terrain, high-end resorts, and Ellison's sustainability ambitions, which he's executing through a development company called Pulama Lanai.

Here's how Lanai came to be owned by Ellison and what he's planning for the island.

Lanai Hawaii
Douglas Peebles/Corbis via Getty Images

Source: Pacific Business News,Forbes

Murdock became the owner of Lanai in 1985 after taking over Dole's parent company, Castle & Cooke. Prior to Murdock's ownership, the island was controlled by "Pineapple King" James Dole.

Lanai Hawaii
Pineapple fields on Lanai. Douglas Peebles/Corbis via Getty Images

Source: Forbes

The 141-square-mile island, which is eight miles off the coast of Maui, has zero traffic lights and few paved roads, according to Forbes. Compared with other Hawaiian islands, Lanai is secluded - but Ellison has plans to change that: He wants to turn Lanai into a tourist destination.

Lanai Hawaii
Lanai from space. NASA/Reuters

Source: Forbes, The New York Times

Lanai already boasts two Four Seasons-run hotels. The penthouse suite at the Four Seasons Hotel Lanai costs $21,000 per night, making it the most expensive suite in Hawaii.

Source: Pacific Business News

The island was also home to two golf courses when Ellison bought it, including Manele Golf Course. In 1994, prior to Ellison's ownership of the island, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates got married at the 17th hole of the course.

Manele Golf Course 17th hole Lanai
The 17th hole of the Challenge course at the Manele Golf Course in Lanai circa 1985. Brian Morgan/Popperfoto via Getty Images

Source: CNBC

The other course, Koele, was designed by golfer Greg Norman. The course has since been shut down, and an adventure park and zipline have been installed in its place.

Lanai Hawaii
The cart path on the golf course at Lanai Manele Bay Resort. Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Source: Pacific Business Journal, Lanai Adventure Park

In 2014, Ellison bought Island Air, a budget airline that ferries passengers from Oahu to Maui and Lanai. But two years later, after the airline lost $21.78 million and had to lay off roughly 20% of its workforce, Ellison sold a controlling interest in the airline.

Oahu Hawaii airplane
The view of the windward side of Oahu, Hawaii, from aboard a Hawaiian Airlines flight. Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

Ellison's Lanai purchase included an animal-rescue center. Because there are no natural predators to cats on Lanai, the feral-cat population at the shelter has ballooned to over 400 cats (which Ellison technically owns). In recent years, it's become a travel destination in itself.

Cat shelter
An animal-rescue center, though not the one on Lanai. Sergei Fadeichev/TASS via Getty Images

Source: Hawaii Magazine, The New York Times

Ellison's ambitions extend beyond tourism, however: he plans to create "the first economically viable, 100 percent green community," according to The New York Times.

larry ellison
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

In 2018, Ellison launched a wellness company called Sensei, which is working on three main issues: global food supply, nutrition, and sustainability. Sensei's goal is to use data to help people lead healthier and longer lives.

hydroponic farming
Scott Varley/MediaNews Group/Daily Breeze via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider

Sensei built two 20,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouses, known as Sensei Farms. The greenhouses have sensors and cameras that track data about the farms, including water usage and airflow. According to Forbes, they're powered by 1,600 Tesla solar panels (Ellison sits on Tesla's board).

Tesla solar panels Puerto Rico
Tesla solar panels in Puerto Rico. Alvin Baez/Reuters

Source: Forbes

Sensei also built a luxury spa called Sensei Retreat that costs $3,000 a night. Guests set physical and mental goals for their stay and the spa tracks their sleep, nutrition, and blood flow. The heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers grown at Sensei Farms are used at the spa's in-house Nobu restaurant, according to Forbes.

Spa facial
A person receiving a facial, though not at the Sensei Retreat. Mark Lennihan/AP

Source: Forbes

Ellison reportedly wants to purchase the island's power plant and electric grid from Hawaiian Electric Co. to transition the island away from fossil fuels toward 100% renewable energy.

Hawaii solar power
Hawaii is a national leader in rooftop solar power, and the state has an ambitious goal of using only renewable energy by 2045. Cathy Bussewitz/AP Photo

Source: Fox Business

Ellison's goal is for Lanai to serve as a prototype for a "health utopia," according to Forbes. Tesla CEO and Ellison's close friend Elon Musk told Forbes that Lanai is like "a microcosm for the world."

Larry Ellison Elon Musk
Stephen Lam/Reuters; Mike Blake/Reuters

Source: Forbes

When the coronavirus pandemic struck Lanai last year, Ellison reduced or eliminated rent altogether for businesses on the island and paid the full wages and benefits for employees who worked for him.

Manele Bay Resort Lanai Hawaii
Tiki torches at the Manele Bay Resort in Lanai. Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

All told, Ellison has spent roughly half a billion dollars on the island, beyond his initial purchase (in 2014, he spent $41 million on property alone). But Ellison's wealth has only continued to rise during the pandemic: These days, he's worth an estimated $81.6 billion.

Larry Ellison
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Source: Pacific Business News, Forbes, Bloomberg

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