Oracle's Ellison considering second Hawaiian airline

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Oracle's Ellison considering second Hawaiian airline

Island Air confirms discussions.

Billionaire Oracle CEO Larry Ellison may be interested in acquiring a second Hawaii airline after buying most of the tropical island of Lanai last year.

Island Air, a Honolulu-based carrier with a handful of island-hopping planes that Ellison bought in February, confirmed discussions between Island and US-based Mesa Air Group, the parent company of Hawaii's inter-island go! Airlines.

"We are committed to building a strong regional airline and part of that process is exploring all options including discussions with Mesa Air," Island Air CEO Paul Casey said in a one-sentence statement.

Honolulu's Star-Advertiser newspaper reported Ellison was arranging to take control of go! Airlines.

Mesa CEO Jonathan Ornstein was not immediately available for comment. A spokeswoman said the airline flies 40 flights a day in Hawaii using a fleet of five 50-seat CRJ-200 jets.

Oracle declined to comment.

Hawaii aviation historian Peter Forman said a deal for Island Air to purchase go! would not only secure more flights for Ellison's island of Lanai, but also could indicate that Ellison intends to become a player in the Hawaiian airline market.

Many industry observers have expected another airline to enter Hawaii to compete with Hawaiian Airlines for the tourist- rich interisland market. Combining go! and Island Air would give Ellison critical mass and a platform from which to compete.

"He's gaining the recognition that he is serious about becoming the second interisland airline in Hawaii. There has been a vacuum for serious competition to Hawaiian (Airlines)," Forman said.

In March 2013, Forbes Magazine listed Ellison, 68, as the world's fifth richest man, and the third richest American, with a net worth of US$43 billion.

Ellison bought 98 percent of the 365 square km island of Lanai, Hawaii's sixth-largest island, from billionaire David Murdock in June for an undisclosed price. He said he intended to turn the island into a "laboratory" for green living.

Ellison's Lanai holdings include two resorts and golf courses, a variety of commercial and residential structures, as well as vast acres of undeveloped former pineapple land. The island has roughly 3000 residents.

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