Monday, 11 September 2017

Irma, Virgin Gorda and Sir Richard Branson

What Nester Islabd looked like, before Irma
In news reports about the destruction of Hurricane Irma, you may come across Sir Richard Branson's name in association with recovery efforts on Virgin Gorda.

Unless you have been following the career of the knighted business magnate and chairman of the the Virgin Group of companies, you may find yourself wondering, if only for a moment, why his company's name is associated with the island.

It is strictly coincidental, however you would be forgiven for thinking he owned an island here. He does, but it's not Virgin Gorda.

When Richard Branson learned that some of the British Virgin Islands were for sale in the late 70's, he bought Necker Island, a 30-hectare (74-acre) island, just north of Virgin Gorda. While Necker Island's land is entirely owned by Sir Richard Branson, the island's beaches, up to the high-water mark, are Crown land, and are open to the public.

When Branson bought the island, at age 28, it was uninhabited. As an alien landholder, however, Branson was required to develop a resort within four years or the island would revert to the state.

Three years and $10+ million USD later, Branson's private island retreat opened. Built using local stone, Brazilian hardwoods, Asian antiques, Indian rugs, art pieces and fabrics and bamboo furniture from Bali, the exclusive resort is part of the Virgin Limited Edition portfolio of luxury properties. The whole of Necker Island operates as a resort and can accommodate up to 34 guests.

For a tidy sum, guests at Necker Island have access to private pools, tennis courts, a team of 100 staff (including a personal chef) and a wide array of water sports equipment (Branson also owns nearby Moskito Island, where he operates a sail-in dive resort).

Until this past week, the 10-bedroom Balinese-style villa, perched atop a hill on Necker Island, featured open walls and 360-degree scenic views.

Today it is rubble.

Branson and his team rode out the storm in the resort's sizeable wine cellar.

Since emerging to the surrounding devastation, Branson has been mobilizing resources to assist residents on nearby Virgin Gorda Island.

Yesterday, he posted an update:
"I am writing from Puerto Rico, where I have travelled in order to further mobilise aid efforts and rebuilding plans for the British Virgin Islands and wider Caribbean. Communications remain mostly down in the BVI after Hurricane Irma. After sharing these updates and talking to various governments, aid agencies and media, we will be heading straight back to the BVI to continue helping the recovery effort on the ground... This story is about the tens of thousands of people who have lost their homes and their livelihoods. We have spent the past two days visiting team members who live on Virgin Gorda and as many people as possible, distributing aid, water and supplies. We have seen first-hand just how ferocious and unforgiving this storm was... [read more].
Related stories
Richard Branson reveals devastation of hurricane-hit private island, blames ‘man-made climate change’ - CNBC
The Night Before Hurricane Irma Arrives - Virgin blog

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