Reclusive Billionaire Buying Flood-Prone Land in Grand Cayman

The mystery of Kenneth Dart’s Cayman Islands empire

Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands, seen from the air in 2005.
Salvatore Freni Jr/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / October 19, 2019 7:00 am

Tropical islands have long been a destination for the ultra-wealthy — especially when they have a tax code that benefits the rich. That’s the case with the Cayman Islands, which a 2016 article in The Guardian called “the most notorious tax haven on earth.” But something interesting has been taking place on Grand Cayman Island, the largest of the islands that make up the territory — something that flies in the face of both conventional wisdom and the realities of climate change.  

Despite the island taking damage from a host of recent hurricanes — something which will also make it more vulnerable to future storms — one of Grand Cayman’s wealthiest residents has been buying up more and more property there. Which in turn begs the question: why?

At The New York Times, Katy Lederer traveled to the Cayman Islands to explore the real estate purchases of Kenneth Dart. “With his fortune and his company, Dart Enterprises, he has increasingly come to define the islands’ future,” Lederer writes. 

Dart is a reclusive and sometimes contradictory figure. “Residents compared him to Batman, Howard Hughes, a Bond villain and both Warren and Jimmy Buffett,” Lederer notes — not exactly a group of people who have a ton of things in common. Dart’s real estate strategy also led his company, earlier this year, to propose a skyscraper be built in Grand Cayman

Lederer’s article explores the environmental threats the island currently faces, and how its tax code has both provided jobs for local residents and created a kind of social stratification. Hovering above much of it is Dart himself, who declined to be interviewed — but whose wealth and ambition will likely continue to influence the island for years to come. 

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