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|Area||74 acres (30 ha)|
|Area||74 acres (30 ha)|
Necker Island is a 74-acre (300,000 m2) island in the British Virgin Islands just north of Virgin Gorda. The island is owned by Sir Richard Branson, famous for his Virgin brand, and is part of the Virgin Limited Edition portfolio of luxury properties. The entire island operates like a resort and can accommodate up to 28 guests.
Necker Island is located at latitude 18.55 north and longitude 64.35 west in the eastern section of the British Virgin Islands, slightly to the north of Virgin Gorda and Prickly Pear and to the north-east of Mosquito Island (sometimes spelled Moskito Island). The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are a group of islands approximately 1,100 miles south-east of Miami, Florida, 60 miles due east of Puerto Rico, and about 120 miles north-west of St. Barts.
The island was named after the 17th-century Dutch squadron commander Johannes de Neckere, although it remained uninhabited until the late 20th century.
In 1965 the celebrated photographer Don McCullin and the journalist Andrew Alexander, spent fourteen days on the island at the behest of The Daily Telegraph newspaper for which they worked. The magazine editor had hoped that they would survive their castaway adventure for at least three weeks, but as McCullin later recounted, "because of our gathering weakness ... out of temper, and out of water, we hoisted the red flag and were taken off in the early hours of the fifteenth day". According to McCullin, there was nothing idyllic about the desert island: "It was inhabited by snakes, scorpions and tarantulas ... The mosquitos and other insects were more venomous and persistent than any I had encountered in Vietnam or the Congo."
Sir Richard Branson first became aware that some of the islands in the British Virgin Islands were for sale in 1978. He promptly went to the British Virgin Islands for a holiday 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 $150,000 for the $6 million island (due to his relatively modest funds at that time in his career), 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 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.
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, Asian antiques, Indian rugs, art pieces and fabrics and bamboo furniture from Bali, the architects and elite 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$62,000 a day, meaning that minus labour expenses the cost of the entire island could be recouped in a mere 4 months. 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 high profile guest, Larry Page, Google's billionaire co-founder, married his girlfriend, Lucy Southworth, on the island in early December 2007. Larry Page rented a portion of Virgin Gorda as well, as Necker was far too small to fit his 600+ guest party.
In the early hours of Monday 22 August 2011, The Great House, as it is called, burned down in a blaze believed to be caused by lightning from Tropical Storm Irene. The house was occupied at the time by as many as 20 guests, with Sir Richard Branson himself staying in a residence nearby. All 20 of the guests escaped unhurt from the burning house, which according to Sir Richard Branson was totally destroyed. Among the 20 occupants were actress Kate Winslet, along with Branson's 90-year-old mother Eve and his 29-year-old daughter Holly, when the fire broke out in the early hours of the morning. The Great House has now been rebuilt with the Great Room expanded from but in a style strongly reminiscent of that lost to the fire.
In December 2011, just a few days before Christmas, Branson's daughter Holly married long-term boyfriend Freddie Andrewes on the island in the ashes of the burned Great House.
The Necker Cup, an exhibition tennis tournament held at the end of the tennis season, has been held on the island annually since 2012.
Although the land on the island is entirely privately owned, under British Virgin Islands law, all beaches up to the high-water mark are Crown land, and are open to the public. In practice, the security personnel who accompany guests to Necker Island are known for making it difficult for ordinary members of the public to enjoy the beaches, particularly when high-profile guests are in residence. On one of the occasions when Diana, Princess of Wales stayed at the resort, security personnel kept a 150-metre perimeter around the island, within which the public were excluded.
When the island was being purchased, environmentalists expressed concerns that Necker Island was one of the few places in the world a rare gecko, the Virgin Islands dwarf gecko, lives. When Branson was granted an alien land-holder's licence to enable him to purchase the island, it was made conditional on his agreement that any legitimate scientific expedition to study the geckos should have full and unfettered access to the island.
Branson's official residency and tax status is reliant on his declaration that he lives on this island.