LANAI CITY, Hawaii - Bill Gates, the second-richest man in America, was to be married yesterday in a ceremony cloaked in secrecy and security personnel hired to keep the news media away.
It could not be confirmed late yesterday if the wedding had been held.
The billionaire computer-software mogul was engaged to longtime girlfriend Melinda French, 29, a product manager at Microsoft.
It was quickly apparent that every precaution was taken to protect the couple and their 130 guests. An Associated Press reporter and photographer and a reporter and photographer from The Honolulu Advertiser were intercepted while working their way along the Holopoe Bay coastline and made to sign a "Trespass Warning" notice.
The warning said, "You are hereby notified that your presence and/or patronage is no longer desired on property owned and operated by Lanai Company, including . . . all lands owned by Castle & Cooke Inc. This serves as notice that you are not to return . . ."
It also noted that a violation of the warning would subject the person to arrest and prosecution.
With that, the reporters and photographers were driven to Lanai Airport to return to Honolulu.
A security worker for a division of the Lanai Co. was sent to the island's only airport to warn incoming visitors that Gates wanted privacy. Gates also brought in his own security force, hotel workers said.
The island is 99 percent owned by Castle & Cooke, a subsidiary of Dole Food Co. Lanai is 10 miles off the west coast of Maui.
Gates, 38, whose fortune is estimated at nearly $7 billion, bought out all the available rooms at the 250-room Manele Bay Hotel - where the wedding party is staying - to keep the media out. He reportedly hired all the helicopters on Maui to keep photographers from flying over.
The co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., based in Redmond, was to have married French under a white-topped canopy on the 17th hole of The Challenge golf course, which looks out over the ocean on Lanai's south coast.
Even the time of the wedding was guarded like a state secret.
Among those invited to attend were Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft and owns the Portland Trail Blazers; Nebraska billionaire businessman Warren Buffett, the nation's richest man, with a fortune of more than $8 billion; Katharine Graham, owner and former publisher of The Washington Post, and Dan Evans, former Washington governor and former U.S. senator.
Country music star Willie Nelson and rocker Alice Cooper reportedly performed at a New Year's party for the couple. One hotel employee says it's been one party after another for Gates and his guests since they arrived.
It was a different story in Lanai City. At the Blue Ginger Cafe, the talk centered on Paul Allen's 154-foot yacht, the "Charade."
"We heard rumors about the wedding a couple of weeks ago," said a 54-year-old transplant from Pennsylvania. "I know who the guy is: Mr. Microsoft."
The movie "Exit to Eden," shot on the island a year ago, drew more interest, the Pennsylvanian said.
"Then, we had people we recognized," he said.
Gates is a Harvard dropout who built Microsoft into the world's largest maker of personal computer software, with sales nearing $4 billion.