Jan. 15, 2003 – The online response to the idea of owning a fantasy island — or even part of one — in the Virgin Islands is boggling the minds of the real estate people who put St. Thomas's Thatch Cay up for auction.
With less than 24 hours before the close of bidding, nearly 200,000 hits had been recorded on eBay and Web sites operated by realty companies promoting the auction, and 42 actual bids had been received.
As of midday Wednesday, the tally of hits logged was 197,562 on eBay, another 15,000 on a site operated by Florida-based real estate auctioneer Bill Hoyle, and 3,000 more on the site for John Foster Real Estate on St. Thomas. "Normally we'd be getting 200 or 300," local broker Shep Barrows said.
According to Hoyle, all the bids represent serious bidders. Well, almost.
"Somebody called and said he had a huge collection of Beatles albums that had never been opened, including deejay versions of the records. He wanted to trade a bunch of stuff for the whole island," the auctioneer said. "We said thanks, but no thanks."
To get in on the action, bidders must have been pre-approved for a possible sale, Hoyle said. The island is being offered either as a whole or as three separate parcels. When bidding on one parcel took an $850,000 jump, Hoyle said that was a signal that the would-be buyer suddenly realized what a great deal he or she was looking at.
He also said the auction has attracted the attention of a lot of "Looky Lou's" who have no intention of buying but want to know what it would be like to own their own private island.
Barrows said the auction has put St. Thomas on the media map, too. In the last few days, he said, he has been called by a radio talk show host in Australia and a reporter in Denmark. The reporter said members of the Danish press, presumably in jest, had suggested to the foreign minister that the Thatch Cay auction might represent an opportunity to buy back a bit of the former Danish West Indies, which Denmark sold to the United States for $25 million in 1917.
The island offering was posted on eBay on Jan. 6. As of Wednesday afternoon, the bidding was up to $600,100 for each of two parcels and $3,000,100 for a third. (See the St. Thomas Source story "Thatch Cay goes up for auction on eBay".)
Although eBay listed the minimum bid as $1 million on each of the three parcels, Barrow said at the start of bidding that the owner wanted $7 million for the entire island. Or, he would take $4 million each for the two 57-acre parcels and about $5 million for the 115.8-acre parcel.
At 1 p.m. Thursday, Virgin Islands time, the Cyberspace auction will end. Hoyle says there will likely be three winners, one for each parcel. Barrows said the winning bid or bids will be announced immediately, but it may take a while to find out the names of the persons or companies that won.
Winning the auction doesn't make acquisition of Thatch Cay, or a part of it, a done deal, though. The island has been on the market through traditional channels for several months, and a California resident, Scott McIntyre, has an option to purchase it from the corporate owners, Thatch Cay LLC. However, he would prefer to use the money for other investments.
McIntyre, the president of a company called Idealight International, was quoted by national news media on Wednesday afternoon as saying he likes the response the auction has generated, but the bids are too low.
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