PHOTO: Sailing Whitsundays
The owners of Hamilton Island have put feelers out for potential buyers.
Two decades after investing nearly $200 million to acquire Hamilton Island, the Oatley family has enlisted the services of investment bank UBS to assess the strategic options available for their prized tourism asset.
Renowned for their extensive involvement in the winemaking industry and their impressive record of nine victories in the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, the Oatley family’s decision to invest in Hamilton Island, now valued at approximately $1 billion, has proven to be highly profitable.
Following initial reports in Street Talk, a spokesperson stated, “As the family looks toward the future, they have implemented new leadership and a fresh approach, initiating a comprehensive review with the guidance of advisors to explore avenues for growth and long-term prosperity.” “It is important to note,” they added, “that this review is currently ongoing, and no definitive decisions have been reached.” In recent weeks, several potential investors have already visited the island, according to insider sources.
Hamilton Island was initially developed in the early 1980s and was later acquired by Robert Oatley, a former coffee trader who amassed his initial fortune by selling Rosemount Estate to Southcorp for $1.5 billion, after encountering financial difficulties in 2003. Since then, the island has become part of Balmoral Australia, the family office currently overseen by Sandy Oatley. Since acquiring Hamilton Island, the Oatleys have channeled over $450 million into enhancing its tourism infrastructure. This substantial investment includes expenditures exceeding $100 million on the construction of qualia, a luxurious resort that opened its doors in 2007, $85 million on the development of the Hamilton Island Yacht Club and Villas, and $45 million on the Hamilton Island Golf Club.
The Whitsundays’ resorts and former resorts are highly sought-after properties, with some of the wealthiest families in the country making acquisitions. One of the most recent purchasers is Annie Cannon-Brookes, who separated from her billionaire husband, Mike Cannon-Brookes, and paid around $24 million to acquire Dunk Island from the Bond family last year. Sydney hotelier Glenn Piper acquired the leasehold for Hook Island Lodge for $12 million a year earlier and has since unveiled plans to create a luxury resort.
In 2021, the Forrest family acquired Lizard Island for $42 million, while affluent Singaporean investors obtained Lindeman Island earlier this year at a heavily discounted price of $10 million. The former Club Med resort on the island has remained closed since 2012. On the other hand, Gina Rinehart abandoned her intentions to invest in Great Keppel Island, where the Hancock Prospecting billionaire had envisioned the creation of a world-class beach club.
However, Hamilton Island stands apart from these properties. It boasts significantly greater development, featuring numerous hotels, resorts, and various accommodation options. Moreover, it serves as the gateway to the Whitsundays, offering multiple daily flights to Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. The privately owned airport would be included in any potential sale.