Virgin billionaire Richard Branson has sensationally revealed he is adding to his island portfolio as he plans to purchase a retreat off the Northumberland coastline.
Branson fell in love with the Farne Islands around two years ago when he secretly visited them when on a trip to Virgin Money North East headquarters at the former Northern Rock building in Gosforth, Newcastle, which Branson’s Virgin Group added to its empire in 2007.
He is now in negotiations with the National Trust which runs the visitor attraction off the coast at Seahouses.
Trust bosses have confirmed they have been approached by a private buyer and are in talks with him.
It is understood Branson has been on the lookout to buy another island to add to Necker - the luxury island in the British Virgin Islands where pop and film stars spend their secretive getaways.
Branson is said to have offered a seven figure sum for one of the islands where he wants to build a luxury lodge.
It is believed he will use the lodge when he visits Virgin Money in Gosforth and will permanently moor a luxury yacht in Seahouses harbour.
Branson, founder of Virgin Group, which comprises more than 400 companies, has chosen a lodge construction so building work can be quick and not disturb the wildlife and blend into the landscape.
A National Trust spokesman said: “We can understand why anyone would want to buy the Farne Islands. There’s no where quite like it to experience nature close up. The Islands are home to over 23 species of seabirds including 37,000 pairs of puffins from April to July. They’re also home to one of the largest colonies of grey seals in the UK.”
Branson had organised a competition among Necker staff and their families and friends to come up with a suitable name for a haven in preparation of purchasing another island.
Lafi Oprol, a worker’s grandmother, won by naming the new island after herself.
The 86-year-old said Lafi represented fun and laughter, her house was a place where people loved to return to and she had stood the test of time - all the qualities of a beautiful retreat.
It is said he would like to rename the North East beauty spot the Lafi Islands but it may be a condition of sale that he keeps the Farne Islands’ name.
The Farne Islands are possibly the most exciting seabird colony in England. Historically, the islands have strong links with Celtic Christianity and St Cuthbert, who lived here in the 7th Century. There’s also a medieval pele tower and Victorian lighthouse, as well as a visitor centre.
A Branson insider said: “He is keen to build a retreat on the Farne Islands but his wish is to rename it Lafi Islands after Lafi Oprol - which is an anagram of April Fool.”