Celebrities are heavily associated with private islands in the media, which can lead to wild speculation about just who owns one of these exclusive pieces of luxury real estate. Here, Private Island News provides Part 1 of the definitive guide to the islands of the rich and famous – it may be surprising which claims are true, and which are just unfounded rumours.
Richard Branson – Makepeace, Necker, Moskito, and Britain (The World, Dubai)
Few celebrities are as closely associated with private islands as Sir Richard Branson, head of the Virgin corporate empire. But does the often-outrageous billionaire really own four islands, or is it an exaggeration? The reality is that the claims are partly true; the island-loving Sir Richard bought Necker in the British Virgin Islands in 1979, followed by Makepeace Island in Australia in 2003. His last acquisition was Moskito Island, also in the BVI, in 2007. Rumours that he purchased the island of Britain in Dubai’s The World, however, have been refuted: the yet-unfinished island is owned by a real estate company.
Status: Mostly True
Eddie Murphy – Rooster Cay, Bahamas
It’s a perfect little speck in the deep blue Caribbean sea, only a hop, skip and a jump from bustling Nassau – could there be a better celebrity hideaway than little Rooster Cay? The island boasts three cabanas, designed in a casual pastel ‘Out-Island’ style, a boathouse, and a gazebo with amazing views of the sea and surrounding isles. But can it also boast a celebrity owner, namely, the oft-reported Eddie Murphy? The answer, according to insider sources, is a resounding no. Credible professionals have said that Rooster Cay is owned by the Bahamian government and leased out regularly – it is unknown whether funny man Murphy has ever leased the island, even briefly.
Giorgio Armani – Skorpios Island, Greece
It was widely reported in the media in 2007 that fashion icon Giorgio Armani was the proud new owner of Skorpios, the fabled Greek island in the Ionian Sea, a sunny paradise where Aristotle Onassis once romanced Jackie-O. The news seemed credible enough – after all, literally dozens of publications repeated the claims. In truth, however, Armani did not purchase the island. Rumours are difficult to kill, however; even after he publicly denied ownership of Skorpios in an official statement, articles repeating the gossip were still being published on the internet.
Pamela Anderson – The World, Dubai
As a public relations strategy, the World project in Dubai was well-known for giving out its globe-themed islands to celebrities; in the case of Pamela Anderson, however, it has been claimed that her ex-husband, Motley Crue rock musician Tommy Lee, purchased the island of Greece for her as a gift. While the former Baywatch star does seem to be active in Dubai, including stating her intentions to open an eco-friendly hotel in the city, after a brief flurry of articles in 2008, no further mention has been made of Pam’s supposed island. A lack of official confirmation, paired with the financial difficulties delaying construction at The World, makes it highly unlikely that this particular rumour is true.
Status: Probably Untrue
Mel Gibson – Mago Island, Fiji
The exotic South Pacific has long been a lure for isolation-seeking celebs; Marlon Brando had an entire atoll in French Polynesia, and Raymond Burr retired to his Fijian sanctuary of Naitoumba. Much like the Old Hollywood stars of yore, Mel Gibson is often said to own a vast isle in Fiji, the 5,400-acre Mago Island in the country’s remote Lau Group. In this case, the rumours are correct – the vast island was purchased by the action star from the Japan-based Tokyu Corporation in early 2005. Since then, Mago has featured in Gibson’s divorce settlement, a campaign against native Fijians who say they have an ancestral claim on the property, and the island was even part of the plot of an episode of NBC’s popular television show, 30 Rock.
Nicholas Cage – Leaf Cay, Bahamas
Acclaimed actor Nicholas Cage is no stranger to media rumours, including speculation about his possible bankruptcy and huge collection of strange medical antiques – not to mention the bizarre claim, which he addressed recently on David Letterman’s The Late Show, that he is an immortal vampire. Genuine celebrity private island owners are almost as rare – so what about Leaf Cay, the 40+ acre island he is said to own in the Exumas? Cage did indeed buy the undeveloped island in 2006 for a reported – and unconfirmed – US $3 million, but it can be considered old news. The island has changed hands at least once since he bought it, and the buyer then returned it to the market, according to industry sources.
Status: Partly True
PIN welcomes your comments on this subject, and we would be happy to address any celebrity island rumors that our readers feel we may have missed! Our Part 2 in this series will follow shortly, featuring Johnny Depp, Celine Dion, Shakira, and more.