The largest of the three airlines serving Molokai, Island Air, has been sold to Larry Ellison, according to a statement from the company on Wednesday.
In late June, Ellison, the billionaire founder of Oracle, bought the island of Lanai from Castle and Cooke. He has already announced plans to expand farming on Lanai with the installation of a desalination plant.
Ellison now hopes to expand Island Air to serve locals visiting relatives on the islands and to fly mainland and foreign tourists throughout the island state, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. With this recent purchase, the airline plans to retire two 1980s-era planes and expand to four or five new ATR 72 turboprops by the end of the year.
Island Air says the deal secures the future of the company for its employees as it had been undergoing a restructuring. The previous owner of the airline, California businessman Charles Willis IV, had been looking for a buyer for the airline and had put all its employees on notice that layoffs could begin as soon as March 11 if a buyer was not found, he said.
The purchase price if Island Air has not been disclosed. Ellison purchased 98 percent of Lanai for an estimated $500 million.
The only other airlines with scheduled flights to Molokai Airport are Mokulele Airlines and Pacific Wings, both of which fly Cessna Grand Caravan planes with capacities of eight to 10 passengers.