The island of Lanai could be under new ownership by the end of the week, according to Mayor Alan Arakawa.
Lanai’s billionaire owner, David Murdock, put the island up for sale late last year. Arakawa said he’s been kept in the loop on potential offers, and negotiations with a serious buyer seem close.
“They currently have someone that is interested, and I’m pretty sure that, one way or the other, the sale will close fairly soon,” Arakawa said. “There may be something that happens by the end of this week, if it goes through.”
The asking price is reportedly between $500 million and $600 million.
Officials with Castle & Cooke Hawaii, Murdock’s privately held company that owns 98 percent of Lanai, did not return calls or emails seeking comment.
Murdock, 89, has owned the island – home to approximately 2,000 residents – since 1985.
Castle & Cooke is a major employer for residents because it owns the island’s luxury resorts operated by Four Seasons, golf courses, the water utility and other businesses. The company has said it is losing as much as $40 million a year on its Lanai operations.
“He has put a lot of money into the community, and he’s losing a fortune on operations, so he’s going to make business decisions,” Arakawa said. “He is getting older, and it may be that he doesn’t want to be the one to have to concentrate on the long-term.”
Murdock is worth an estimated $2.7 billion, according to Forbes, which in March ranked him No. 139 on its list of richest people in America.
Arakawa said the county is concerned about the impact a potential sale could have on residents.
“I know he loves Lanai; he’s told me that many times,” he said. “I’m hoping that whoever buys the island will have as much compassion for the residents there as David Murdock. I’m hoping they will be conscientious owners.”
Murdock and his company have drawn the ire of some residents for a proposed wind farm project that could help boost Castle & Cooke’s earnings and the island’s economy.
Arakawa said he hopes there won’t be a repeat of what happened with Molokai Ranch.
Four years ago, Molokai Ranch, which owns almost half the island, shut down operations after heated opposition to more development on the island, leaving more than 100 residents jobless.
“With everything that happened with Molokai Ranch, it’s very difficult to be confident that whoever is buying Lanai will have the same compassion as David Murdock,” Arakawa said.
He said the county has been in talks with Castle & Cooke to try to get lands turned over for community parks and fields and affordable housing.