Necker Island (British Virgin Islands)
Necker Island is a 74 acre island in the British Virgin Islands just north of Virgin Gorda. All of the land on the island is owned by Sir Richard Branson, famous for his Virgin brand, and it 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 located approximately 1,100 miles southeast of Miami, Florida, 60 miles due east of Puerto Rico and, about 120 miles northeast 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 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."
Ownership by Richard Branson 
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 in order 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 £100,000 for the £3 million island, however, 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, notwithstanding his relatively modest capital at that time in his career.
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$53,000 to $54,000 a day. 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 majority of Virgin Gorda as well, as Necker was far too small to fit his 600+ guest party.
In the early hours of Monday, August 22, 2011, The Great House, as it was 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 was said to have been totally destroyed, according to Sir Richard Branson. 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.
In December 2011, just a few days before Christmas, Branson's daughter Holly married long term boyfriend Freddie Andrewes on the island "at exactly the same spot" where Sir Richard Branson, had married years earlier.
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 which 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 relatively few places in the world that a rare species of gecko, the Virgin Islands dwarf gecko, lives and breeds. When Branson was granted an alien land-holder's licence to enable him to purchase the island, it was made conditional upon Sir Richard Branson's agreement that any legitimate scientific expedition to study the geckos should have full and unfettered access to the island.
Sir Richard Branson's official residency and tax status is reliant on his declaration that he lives on this island.
- Official Homepage NeckerIsland
- "Virgin Islands: How do you like your paradise?". Telegraph. January 18, 2001. Retrieved 2011-08-24.
- Don McCullin (2002). Unreasonable Behaviour: An Autobiography. Vintage. ISBN 978-0-09-943776-5.
- Official Homepage Booking
- "Google co-founder 'to marry'". BBC News Online. December 7, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
- "Twenty people escape fire at Branson's holiday home". BBC. August 22, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-22.
- Very happy day Richard Branson's blog. 20th December 2011.
- Necker Island official site
- The Paradise Islands photographic guide to Necker Island
- Richard Branson shows Necker Island to MTV Cribs