After laying claim to Malta and Gozo, mega-developer Joseph Portelli has set his sights on a tiny island in Montenegro as his next major endeavour.
With a rumoured €90 million cost, here’s a look at how a tiny island in the Adriatic Sea went from an ancient greek folktale to Portelli’s latest endeavour.
The island lies a few kilometres south of Tivat within the Bay of Kotor, which counts itself as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourist destination in the country.
It is around 340,000 square metres in size and presents a major commercial opportunity in one of the most picturesque locations in the Adriatic Sea.
Records of the island date back to the 15th century. However, an Ancient Greek legend claims that the island was the gift of gods to Greek soldiers, who used the area to heal their wounds.
After backtracking on a promise to stop warring entirely, a deadly storm killed everyone on the island, leaving only the beautiful old olive trees.
In 1963, Club Med, the massive resort chain, purchased the island and developed it into an exclusive tourist village. Around 500 Tahitian-style huts were built there but amenities were few and far between.
It proved to be very popular as archived footage shows. However, after the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the result was abandoned and has remained uninhabited since.
It remained forgotten until MetropolGroup, a major Russian corporation, purchased the property sometime before 2008.
Metropol is owned by Mikail Slipenchuk, a major oligarch who also serves in the Russian Duma.
Slipenchuk had plans to build a six-star resort on the island, but plans were shelved following financial issues.
The company accelerated plans to sell the property following the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions.
Portelli, it appears, has similar plans for the island as the Montenegrin government looks to supercharge tourism in the area. Several real estate companies have been promoting the future project, giving a clear indication of what Portelli’s proposal could look like.
Authorities reportedly “rolled out the red carpet” for Portelli, who has confirmed his interest in the island. However, he is yet to purchase the property, sounding out potential investors to bring along for the mega-investment.
This marks the next phase in Portelli’s unexpected rise to Malta’s leading developer after successful endeavours in Malta’s sporting world. However, this still presents a major risk in unchartered territory for Portelli.
He has been able to bring in investors from both Gozo and Malta on his other major projects and he will be hoping to do the same this time around.
Will Portelli buy the island?