Rich Tales: CBA’s CIO has bought a private island – here’s why you could do the same

Last week, the CIO of the Commonwealth Bank bought himself a private island.

Michael Harte, who is paid $1.7 million a year, making him one of Australia’s best-paid CIOs, has bought Budelli Island, a 1.6-square-kilometre landmass off the coast of Italy. He paid €2.94 million ($4.2 million) for it at an auction.

The rich have always had a thing for private islands. It seems not a week goes by without some mention of a millionaire jetsetting off where only the sea can reach.

Today, for example, brings news of Richard Branson fielding questions about having permanently relocated to Necker Island (his spokesman stresses that the Virgin founder avoids no taxes by moving to the British Virgin Islands).

Branson has owned the island for 34 years, and moved there seven years ago, his spokesman said. When he’s not using it, he rents it out for $US60,000 a night, which isn’t bad considering he bought it for just $200,000.

Other millionaires who own islands include hip hop artist and entrepreneur Jay Z, who recently spent $US3 million on an island in the Bahamas, while Oracle CEO Larry Ellison paid $600 million for 98% of Lana’I, in Hawaii.

One island isn’t enough for the Emir of Qatar: he recently spent $US11 million buying six islands in the Ionian Sea.

What is it about owning a whole landmass that appeals?

Maybe it’s the ability to own all your eye can see. Maybe it’s the privacy, or the ability to mould the landscape into whatever you want.

Given all these benefits, surely it must cost a fortune, right?

It’s certainly not cheap. But compared to the cost of buying, say, a block of land here in Australia, it’s not as unaffordable as you think. And thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to buy your own slice of paradise.

Sure, getting there and back would put a hole in your pocket. But on website like Private Islands Online and Caribbean Island Brokers certainly suggest it isn’t utterly implausible to buy an island upon retirement. Or earlier, if you’ve got a couple of friends and are happy to share.

That’s what a young man going by the moniker Tynan did recently. In a much-shared, jubilant post on his personal blog, he described how he and nine friends bought an island in Canada, which he described as “totally affordable if split ten ways”. In a comment, he says he doesn’t want to reveal the price, but it was less than $100,000.

A quick search suggests there are plenty of islands in south-east Asia up for sale for under $1 million. And that’s not counting the ones you can just rent. If a bit of privacy is what you’ve always wanted, and you’ve got a few hundred thousand in the bank, the dream is closer than you think.


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