Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison has sold most of his Hawaiian airline

larry ellison lanai

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Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison has sold a controlling interest of his Hawaiian airline two years after buying it, the company announced this week.

Island Air is a budget carrier that helps people fly between Oahu (where the the large city of Honolulu is located) and Maui? (a popular resort destination) and?Lanai (the Hawaiian resort island that Ellison owns).

News that he was looking for a buyer broke last week, by Rick Daysog at Hawaii News Now.Advertisement

Ellison, the fifth richest person in the world bought Lanai in 2012 with the goal of turning it into a model for sustainable living, agriculture and vacationing, he said at the time.

And he's been renovating the hotels and resort facilities ever since.

He also bought Island Air, the No. 2 inter-island carrier, to make sure that there were plenty of flights to Lanai so visitors could get there.

However, Island Air wound up competing with the dominant airline in the state, Hawaiian Airlines, and the new inter-island airline it launched in 2014 called Ohana, reports the Pacific News Business Journal.

Island Air struggled, losing $21.78 million in 2014, reports the Journal. In May 2015, it laid off about 20 percent of its employees, shuttered operations on Kauai and canceled an order of two new aircraft, the Journal also reports.So Ellison went out looking for a buyer. But he wasn't making a desperation deal. He reportedly turned down an offer by former Hawaiian airline CEO Bruce Nobles and former Island Air CEO Paul Casey.Advertisement

Instead, he sold a controlling stake to PacifiCap?, run by Jeffrey? Au, the companies announced. Au is one of Hawaii's best-known venture capitalists. Ellison's people will retain a small interest in the airline, which will no doubt ensure that the airline doesn't drop its service to Ellison's island of Lanai.