By Andria Kades
AN Italian-based real estate company, which this week hit global headlines saying it had bought a Greek island with investment guru and billionaire Warren Buffett, who later issued a denial, has set his sights further east and has now put claim to one of a handful of islets off Cyprus, only this time allegedly for Bill Gates.
With Cyprus government officials flatly denying such a deal had ever taken place, the Italian realtor insists the sale is going through, for an undisclosed amount, but not realising that rocks, in some case just fifty metres wide, sprouting out of our waters, hardly compare to Onassis’ Scorpios or other lucrative islands in the Aegean sold to investors and millionaire celebrities. Furthermore, none are up for sale, unless the government has changed its mind.
On Monday, Proto Enterprises – a company owned by Italian real estate agent Alessandro Proto – which is based in London, claimed that the company had purchased a Greek island along with Buffett. Proto himself claims to be the inspiration for the character Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey.
Buffett widely denied the claim saying he had “never heard of the guy”.
Newsweek said Proto stuck to its guns, claiming Buffett’s firm was denying the claim because of “delicate political and economic disputes.” They did not clarify which political or economic disputes they were referring to,” Newsweek said.
“[The] Proto Organisation confirms the sale to Warren Buffett,” a company spokesperson said in an email to Newsweek, claiming they had documents proving that the sale took place. They declined to share the documents with the publication. “We understand the sensitive time politically and economically, but we cannot allow this situation… We are not afraid to face Warren Buffett,” they added.
On Wednesday, Newsweek received an email from the same address, claiming to be Alessandro Proto himself, admitting that the story had been fabricated and saying that the company’s claims had been a “sociological experiment”, orchestrated by him. Proto predicted a meeting between himself and Buffett, and an economic bounce for Greece as a result of his actions.
“From a lie I was bringing money back into a country that does not have money,” he said. “You think I will not be able to meet [Buffett]? You’ll see,” he told Newsweek.
Interestingly, yesterday the Cyprus Mail received an email from the Proto Group’s press office in London titled ‘press release’ saying ex Microsoft’s Bill Gates had bought an island near Cyprus.
“The investment has been made in recent days along with Alessandro Proto, a shareholder of the New York Times and includes a real estate development. The island has an area of 2 square kilometers. The purchase price is top secret,” the release said.
Querying further as to which island – there are a number of tiny islets off Cyprus but no information as to whether any are two square kilometres – the Cyprus Mail asked for more information. Proto replied: “Unfortunately we cannot say certain things. They are strictly private. We can say that we have dealt with the government”. It promised to give more information after publication of the press release.
“I can only tell you that the deal between Bill Gates and Alessandro Proto for buying the island was made with the government of Cyprus,” the email added.
When contacted by the Cyprus Mail, deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos and Undersecretary to the President Constantinos Petrides flatly denied it, while the spokesmen for the ministries of tourism and interior also said they had no such knowledge.