Tragedy struck the Caribbean on January 4: Just a few days after arriving on the island of Virgin Gorda, Taylor Swift and Harry Styles parted ways. (Here’s a shot of Swift reportedly leaving the island). That’s when, according to Business Insider, Sir Richard Branson invited Styles to come party at his private getaway, Necker Island. And party they did: The above photo soon was snapped of Harry (far left), Sir Richard (center) and friends enjoying the estate’s hot tub.
It’s only the latest bizarre tale to emerge from Branson’s tropical getaway. Of late, the 74 acre island — two miles north of Virgin Gorda, and accessible only by boat — has been the place where the members of boy bands go to break up with their pop starlets and where Oscar winners meet (and later marry) bizarrely named dilettantes. But ever since Branson purchased the island for £180,000 in the late ’70s, it’s been home to more than one crazy incident.
In August 2011, Necker was in the news when Branson’s house was struck by lighting during Hurricane Irene and caught fire. That wasn’t the part that made headlines though. While the Branson estate burned, Kate Winslet — who was staying on the island with her then-boyfriend, now-husband (and Branson’s nephew) Ned Rocknroll — became a modern-day hero when she whisked Branson’s mother to safety.
“Many thanks to Kate Winslet for helping to carry my 90 year old mum out of the main house to safety — she was wondering when a Director was going to shout CUT!” Branson wrote on his blog.
It was reportedly on that trip to Necker Island that Winslet first met Rocknroll. The couple secretly married in New York in December.
When Branson and his island made an appearance on MTV’s Cribs in 2004, he explained that he didn’t have money to build anything on the island — until his artists started making money. “As Janet Jackson had a hit I would build a little piece of the island, and then as the Rolling Stones had another hit I’d build another little bit of the island,” Branson waxes nostalgically in the episode. “So, in sense, as Virgin Records grew into a great record label, so this island grew as well.”
The episode gives a glimpse into the strange and beautiful world of Necker Island. For example, there is the part where Branson happens upon the island’s manager in one of the home’s showers, and asks him to “cover your private parts up” as he tells the Cribs camera crew to “come and have quick look at the view Mark has here.”
Later the crew is led into one of the island’s many bedrooms, where a bikini-clad Mariah Carey appears, reclining on a giant bed with a billowing white canopy. They have a glass of wine.
The episode culminates, appropriately somehow, with a pantless Branson bidding the at-home audience adieu from atop his outdoor toilet, “As a Sir Richard, I’d just like to sit on my throne and check out my empire.”
But anyone can technically get in on the Necker fun. It will, of course, cost you: rates start at $11,490 for 3 days (in the winter), and $26,600 for 7 days (in the fall). That includes accommodations, food and drink, transportation from Virgin Gorda or Beef Island (Tortola) airports, watersports, use of the tennis courts, acces to the freshwater pool and Jacuzzi. If you’re lucky, maybe you can convince Sir Richard to jump in the hot tub with you.
- Former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat with a military background, is running for president.