Ellison’s presence low-key

LANAI CITY – So where is Larry Ellison?

Lanai’s billionaire owner hasn’t given local media interviews and has stayed under the public radar, putting his chief operating officer and Lanai native, Kurt Matsumoto, in the spotlight instead.

But the California software guru, who bought the island for “hundreds of millions of dollars” last year, has been around, many Lanai residents say.

Nicknamed the “prime minister” by some locals, a shuttle driver said he’s seen him many times at the Four Seasons Resort Lana’i at Manele Bay.

Manele Bay resident Larry Boldosser said he saw Ellison once or twice at the Manele resort over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. During the New Year’s celebrations, Ellison’s two yachts off Manele blared their horns at midnight.

Officials at Pine Isle Market in the heart of Lanai City also reported seeing Ellison once or twice at the store. He and a young female companion read fliers on a community billboard in front of the store while other company officials went shopping.

Lanai resident Richard Doolin reported seeing Ellison and others having a picnic at Dole Park last year.

But those who say they’ve seen him did not speak to him.

Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa and his communications director, Rod Antone, have. They met Ellison on his yacht off Lanai in the spring.

Antone said Ellison was respectful of the mayor. He also described America’s third-richest man as “friendly, affable and nice.”

Antone said Ellison expressed a need to take care of the community and his workers, who in turn will take pride in their jobs and their home.

In an email statement from Arakawa, who was out of the country last week, the mayor said he and Ellison “see eye-to-eye” on many things, including the need for the islands to develop into sustainable communities.

“We are happy to have a partner like Mr. Ellison who has the resources to help us make that dream a reality,” Arakawa said.

Ellison, chief executive officer of Oracle Corp., an enterprise software company, is seeking to build a desalination plant and envisions electrical cars running about town. He also would like to see a sustainable Lanai and to reintroduce diversified agriculture with local food production and export opportunities.

On a lighter note, Antone recalled that both he and the mayor had to take off their shoes before they entered Ellison’s yacht, Musashi, possibly named after a fearless swordsman who lived in Japan at the turn of the 17th century.

He said they were served a restaurant-style lunch.

Antone said there were two speedboat-type vessels on the second level of Ellison’s multi-level yacht. Ellison told Antone that those boats are placed into the water by a crane that comes out of the floor of the yacht.

“I was like ‘wow,’ ” Antone said in a email.

Not all Lanai residents have spoken to or even seen Ellison in person.

Janice Mamaclay, a medical assistant, said she’s seen him – “only on the TV, the Internet.”

Just like the rest of us.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.