Sir Richard Branson’s love affair with Majorca, which was marred with disputes with the local authorities over his plans for the Son Bunyola estate, never really ended and proof of this is that he has returned this week to repurchase the sprawling Son Bunyola estate perched on the coast in Banyabulfar.
Jon Brown, former manager of La Residencia Hotel in Deya when it was owned by Sir Richard and now the Managing Director of Virgin Limited Edition, the luxury hotel and resort wing of the Virgin Group, told the Bulletin last month that “it’s fairly well known and understood that we would love to come back to Majorca and indeed when the right opportunity presents itself, we’ll be there”. And it appears that the opportunity has come up, especially considering that Sir Richard has bought the property back for 15.5 million euros, some three million euros fewer than what he sold it for in 2002.
Some 13 years ago, Sir Richard told the Bulletin that he wanted to transform Son Bunyola into the “best eco-resort in Europe”, but the local authorities had other ideas and after a brutal battle with the local mayor and some other bodies opposed to his plan, he pulled out of Majorca, selling the emblematic La Residencia Hotel as well. But, he did not sell Son Bunyola lock and stock. The Virgin Limited Group has maintained a luxury villa on the property called Sa Terra Rotja. The property boasts four bedrooms, sleeps a maximum of eight people and is fully catered for and offers complete privacy.
The Son Bunyola estate is approximately 4,000 acres, set in mountains, valleys, pine forests, farmland and five kilometres of coastline. The property includes another private villa, which Mike Oldfield owned for a number of years, and central to the estate is a large historic manor house dating from the 1800s, unused now but forming an incredible centre piece to the dramatic scenery.
Terracing surrounds the manor house with vines, citrus fruit trees, almonds and olive trees. In the past, Son Bunyola was a very important estate on the island and used to produce its own olive oil and wine but farms in this area became less economic as machinery replaced manual labour.
Over the past ten years, much of the land has been restored to its former glory. Many almond and fruit trees and vines have been planted and this is what Branson wants to continue. It is understood that he wants to transform the manor house into a boutique hotel, but also intends to continue with his plans to convert the estate in to an eco-resort - “the very best in Europe”, as he said.
Branson’s departure from Majorca was a blow for the island’s image but his return will cause a global stare and also prove that the Brits are back.