The sale of the fabled isle of the Onassis family to fashion designer Giorgio Armani has been widely misreported in the press – what makes this private island rumour so compelling?
The Ultimate Fantasy Island
Since the days when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wistfully roamed the grounds of Skorpios after her wedding to shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1968, this Grecian isle has served as an archetype for the relaxed glamour and sophistication of the privately-owned island. Found in the deep blue waters of the Ionian Sea, the sprawling island with its white-washed villas, lazily circled by Jackie O’s sailboat and the 325-ft yacht Christina O, brought the concept of island ownership to the public in a most unforgettable way. Skorpios itself is no stranger to rumours; media reports over the last few years have made claims (often without citing sources) that the island is valued at €100-200 million, and is on the market for sale.
Private Man, Private Isle?
In the case of Mr. Armani, his notorious protection of his private life may have helped to fuel speculation that he purchased Skorpios – what better than a remote island for a man who prefers to retreat from the spotlight? Of his personal life, the master of luxurious men’s suits and classic women’s gowns was once quoted in Vogue magazine claiming that it was “absolutely banal,” and perhaps this is true; he is known to be a meticulous craftsman, and lead a healthy life of vegetarianism and exercise. Due to an injury as a young man, rather than for fashion, he habitually hides his eyes behind dark sunglasses.
With his mysterious yet glamorous nature, Mr. Armani may seem to be a likely candidate for island ownership, but according to international private island broker Farhad Vladi, who is highly familiar with Skorpios, there is no truth to the rumour. While he didn’t rule out an eventual attempt to sell the island by the current owner, heiress Athina Roussel, he confirmed that “Skorpios remains in the hands of the Onassis family, and has not been purchased at this time by Giorgio Armani – or anyone else, for that matter.” Mr. Armani himself also denied the reports in a public statement made in September of 2010.
Separating Myth from Fact
If Mr. Armani has made such a public denial, why has this rumour persisted? He is far from the only celebrity who has falsely been reported as an island owner – Madonna, Bill Gates, members of the royal family, and a variety of other famous individuals can be included in that club. Greek media outlets also incorrectly reported the island sale at a time when speculation was flying that, due to the country’s financial crisis, the Greek government was considering selling state-owned isles, creating a buzz of interest in the idea of private islands.
And once the rumours had begun, Pandora’s Box was next to impossible to close; despite his strong refutation, the tale of Skorpios’ sale to Mr. Armani has been repeated not only throughout the internet on websites, but in major publications like, most recently, London’s Evening Standard. Reporters should take care that when verifying whether a celebrity does, in fact, own an island, the safest place to seek confirmation is through the individual’s public relations staff or press contact, or a highly regarded island expert such as Mr. Vladi.
Read the July 22nd article on private islands in the Evening Standard: Link