This is a story about power, influence and yes, scandal. It’s not about St. John per say, but more about the long term effect and impact it will have on the island. It’s about two islands just a “stone’s throw” off South West Coast of St. John. You've likely wondered about them when you were there, but never knew the story. It’s about what’s happened in the past, what’s presently occurring and most importantly the potential future impact from my perspective regarding two barren windswept islands by St. John, USVI.
So, buckle your seatbelts, put a frosty cold one in your hand and read a really great story. Let’s commence first with Little St. James.
The above island of approximately seventy acres was purchased nearly two decades ago by one Mr. Jeffery Epstein. The island is pretty easy to spot. As you sit at the Beach Bar with your bare feet on the sea wall and a pain killer in your hand just look a little left and you’ll see an island with a big flag pole at the southern tip – that my friends, is Little St. James. During the past ten years I’ve watched from my villas the final development of this barren rock into a substantial sized oasis replete with large villa, palm trees, lush landscape, out buildings and a helipad. Mr. Epstein originally formed J. Epstein & Co and later changed the name to Financial Trust Company which is currently based in the Virgin Islands and he has stated his only clients are billionaires.
Possibly quite true, but his real fortune didn’t skyrocket until he “hooked” up with Leslie Wexler in the 90’s. You’d know Mr. Wexler as the owner of the Limited which includes Victoria Secret. Now, when you’re a billionaire as Mr. Wexler certainly is, it’s not about adding to the seven billion dollars you already have, but more importantly preserving that amount for the future. This, Mr. Epstein appears to have successfully done and as a result growth of his company took off.
The last two decades for Mr. Epstein was not confined to solely making a huge sum of money but as important, cultivating politically powerful individuals like Bill Clinton and Prince Andrew – Duke of York. Of which he did successfully along with many other super rich, politically powerful and highly sought after socialites. As intelligent as Mr. Epstein obviously is, he had a flaw, a weakness, which is not my place to delve into. But suffice to say, he likely is the only billionaire that’s also a registered sex offender in the United States.
Anyway, over the last decade and a half he successfully developed Little St. James. This included a desalination plant, generating power system, sewer system, roads, concrete plant, transportation barge and a bunch of other things to build his island oasis. He is reputed to even having a life size cow replica that is periodically moved to various parts of the island.
In the Spring of this year “Great St. James Island” was sold for $22.5 million. Sounds like a lot of money – right? Not really, see when you consider this is a one hundred and seventy-two acre barren island - it sold for roughly $130,000/acre. It was an absolute Caribbean Island steal! You try buying a half acre of premium St. John oceanfront view for that price. I can tell you for certain - it can’t be done.
Great St. James is a good sling shot throw from Little St. James. Now, while your sipping your second painkiller, look just a little bit right of Little St. James and now you’ve spotted Great St. James, basically with nothing on it at present.
While I don’t know for certain other than what I’ve read in the Virgin Island newspapers; but to me, it appears as “if” Mr. Epstein’s fingerprints are all over the purchase. Likely it was bought in a trust or partnership with others.
Everyone “loves” Lawrence Rockefeller right? He’s kinda like Santa Claus to St. John. Because he just deeded over two-thirds of the island he owned on St. John to the National Park Service. But did you also know, he stipulated he would have the sole exclusive hotel development rights within this gifted National Park? Yep, to this day Caneel Bay Resort is the sole hotel within park land on St. John. But without saying, if Rockefeller hadn’t donated his St. John holdings, today the landscape would be much different with beachfront development everywhere. Thank you Mr. Rockefeller.
Well, you can bet the farm, old Mr Epstein, or “Sir Jeff” as he likes to be called by people on his Little St. James Island “if” he’s involved in the purchase, he isn’t about to donate out of the goodness of his heart the one hundred seventy-two acres he now controls on Great St. James. Oh no, Sir Jeff likely has a very different scenario in mind!
Let me preface this by saying this section is solely my speculation. I do not have any hidden information on Mr. Epstein’s plan or anyone else’s plan for that matter. But can reasonably speculate the development phase of this island over the course of the next five years. After a Master Plan approval, a process that is dead certain for him based on his political connections and financial resources.
Then the following will be embarked up.
- First course of action, build inter structure including roads, sewers, power plant, helicopter pad, two desalination plants and concrete pier for delivery of supplies and personnel.
- Cut out seventy, one acre oceanfront lots which will be sold at the $5 million or more and require minimum home size of 10,000 square feet. See this island isn’t going to be for just “decamillionaires” this will attract only those “hectomillionairs” or more. Homes here will make Peter Bay enclave on St. John look like shacks.
- Construct at least three, forty unit ten story condo projects with prices commencing at $3 million all the way up to $10 million or more for penthouses.
- Dedicate at least twenty acres to zero lot line homes selling in the range of $2 million to $4 million likely estimate about one hundred homes.
- Complete an eighteen-hole golf course, cause every rich guy or almost everyone for that matter, plays golf and of course an exclusive member only country club.
- Build a five-star hotel complete with casino for guests attending world conferences on everything from going green to gravitational pull effect on the planet or whatever. Of course, this casino is the one area open to the general public. See, the USVI has wanted a St. Thomas casino on a nearby island for decades but never could get someone to actually finance and build it.
- Develop a small shopping center complex with a number of world class restaurants and other amenities.
- Not enough beach no problem, beaches will be constructed and sand brought in by his barge. Much like the Westin has done for years.
- In order to generate sufficient power for this gigantic luxury development it will require a very large solar power system with panels facing directly east toward St. John.
Will the afore occur? I believe it will, with the consortium of political influence and financial resources Mr. Epstein is capable of putting together. And for the potential financial return on this measly $22.5 Million investment – it will bring in BILLIONS OF DOLLARS!
Next, the USVI Government will eagerly approve this project. Why? They are always “whining” about needing more revenues. With property, hotel, employment taxes and potential casino income this will be a boon to the government and add millions each year. Next, the development will employee a large amount of local construction labor for a substantial number of years until completion. Afterward, significant service personnel employment will be required to maintain and see to the care and feeding of the ultra-rich that will make Great St. James their playground.
WHY TELL YOU?
Because over the next decade St. John will very likely look west at a skyline similar to Fisher Island, Florida (Miami Beach). I’m not saying it’s right or wrong – just that major development is on the way.
I hope you enjoyed this “way out” newsletter and gained a little insight about two close neighboring islands. One of which will dramatically change in the near future. Next month, I promise another beach. Have a great Halloween. I’ll “Leave The Light On For You” at your new island home, Bordo Mare and Sopra Mare. I’m hoping to see you soon.
Mike Mullen - Owner
But you can just call me “Mulley”
Information for newsletter past and present are readily available by research on the web, newspaper and magazine articles. Speculation of what will occur on Great St. James Island is solely my own based on years of real estate experience plus observations from numerous development projects.