Ellison now owns nearly everything on the island, including many of the candy-colored plantation-style homes and apartments, one of the two grocery stores, the two Four Seasons hotels and golf courses, the community center and pool, water company, movie theater, half the roads and some 88,000 acres of land. (2% of the island is owned by the government or by longtime Lanai families.)
Now Ellison is attempting to win over the island's small, but wary, local population, one whose economic future is heavily dependent on his decisions. He and his team have met with experts in desalination and solar energy to change the way water and electricity are generated, collected, stored and delivered on the island. They are refurbishing residential housing intended for workers (Mr. Ellison's Lanai Resorts owns and manages 400 of the more than 1,500 housing units on the island). They've tackled infrastructure, such as lengthening airport runways and paving county roads. And to improve access to Lanai, Mr. Ellison bought Island Air earlier this year and is closing a deal to buy another airline.