You've Got Pineapples
Grove Farm began as a sugar cane plantation about 150 years ago. By the mid-'70s, the company began withdrawing from a declining sugar market and diversifying into residential, resort, industrial, and commercial land development and management, including the golf course and the largest shopping center on the island. A year after Case bought the company, he expanded its holdings to some 40,000 acres, making it one of the largest landholders on Kauai. "His posture on his landholdings is a long-term one, to keep [them] economically viable and to preserve [their] resources," said Allan Smith, vice-president and COO of Grove Farm.
And Grove Farm isn't Case's only major investment in Hawaii. He's the principal shareholder of the Maui Land & Pineapple Company, which owns 28,000 acres on Maui - making the company the second-largest landholder on this island as well. And as with Grove Farm, MLP has a diversified portfolio - in pineapples, commercial and residential property, and the luxury golf-centered Kapalua Resort.
Here, too, Case looks at the MLP investment as an act of stewardship, as well as business. "Why not make an investment in something that you love and care about and want to help nurture, as opposed to some investments that are from a purely return-on-investment stance? Yes, I thought investing in Hawaii made [business] sense, but I am hopeful that my involvement will be a positive force for the community."
The Maui concern, however, was not doing well in recent years due to a downturn in the pineapple market. So Case reached into his AOL playbook and hired David Cole as the chief executive. Cole was head of AOL's New Enterprises Group in the mid-'90s before he left to run Sunnyside Farms, a Virginia supplier of gourmet organic produce.