Move over, Mustique; here comes Moskito. More than half a century after a British aristocrat turned a small Caribbean island into a luxury hideaway for royals and rock stars, a new generation of mega-rich masters of the universe has found a Caribbean playground of its own.
About 450 miles to the northwest of the Grenadine island of Mustique lies Moskito, a 125-acre patch of sand and rock in the British Virgin Islands, surrounded by a turquoise sea. For centuries it served as little more than an anchorage for passing sailors, but today the spending power of Silicon Valley is turning it into what one source described as “the most exclusive homeowner’s association in the world”.
A new generation of mega-rich masters of the universe has found a Caribbean playground of its own.
Dotted across the island are 10 plots for individual estates, nine of which were sold as undeveloped land for at least £12m each. On at least three of the sites, sprawling modern holiday compounds befitting the titans of tech are nearing completion. One of the buyers, Naveen Jain, a Seattle software tycoon, has spent £24m — on top of the £12m price of the land — on building a home he hopes will be ready to move into later this year. “It’s a simple cabin,” he joked last week.
Among Jain’s neighbours will be Michael Birch, a 49-year-old British computer programmer and entrepreneur, and his American wife, Xochi, who together founded the Bebo social media network and sold it to AOL for $850m in 2008. The Birches currently live in a San Francisco street known as Billionaires’ Row, where their neighbours include Sir Jony Ive, designer of the iPhone, and Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle and one of the world’s richest men.
Their neighbours include Sir Jony Ive, designer of the iPhone, and Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle and one of the world’s richest men.
The Birches are expected to move from Billionaires’ Row to Billionaires’ Isle by the end of the year. The identities of seven other buyers have not been disclosed, although they are believed to include at least one other Briton. The 10th resident of Moskito is Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin billionaire who bought the island in 2007 and has masterminded its conversion into a tropical enclave for the über-wealthy. He also owns the nearby island of Necker. His homes on both islands were badly damaged by Hurricane Irma, which devastated the northern Caribbean in 2017.
The 10th resident of Moskito is Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin billionaire who bought the island in 2007.
It was Colin Tennant, later Lord Glenconner, who hit on the idea of turning a private Caribbean island into a playground where the rich and famous could frolic away from prying eyes. In 1958 Tennant paid £45,000 for the 1,400-acre island of Mustique in the Grenadines, at first thinking he might use it for farming.
Two years later Tennant’s friend Princess Margaret and her new husband, Antony Armstrong-Jones, later Lord Snowdon, arrived at Mustique on their honeymoon cruise aboard the royal yacht Britannia. Tennant offered the couple a plot of land to build a villa and a royal tradition was born.
A stream of A-list celebrities turned Mustique into one of the world’s most exclusive hideaways. The late David Bowie kept a home there; Mick Jagger is a regular visitor, as are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Branson’s hopes of emulating Tennant’s strategy suffered a near-fatal blow when Irma struck. He has since rebuilt his Moskito compound and a spokesman said he was living there. The future of Billionaires’ Isle looks sunny — provided the hurricanes stay away.