British business magnate Richard Branson watched his Balinese-style Caribbean villa go up in flames early this morning after lightning stuck the main structure at the private compound.
When the famous owner is not in residence, the entire island is operated as a luxury resort and can accommodate up to 28 guests.
The Virgin Group billionaire’s Necker Island estate, situated in the British Virgin Islands, was battered by high winds caused by Hurricane Irene when lighting ignited a towering inferno that burned the huge structure to the ground.
The storm produced winds up to 90 mph and hit at around 4:00 a.m. today. Richard wrote on his blog, “My son Sam rushed to the house and helped get everyone out. There were 20 people in the house and they all managed to get out and they are all fine.”
Among the guests to escape from the $100 million property was actress turned hero Kate Winslet. Branson blogged, “Many thanks to Kate Winslet for helping to carry my 90-year-old mum out of the main house to safety — she was wondering when a director was going to shout cut!”
The tycoon admits, “The main house is completely destroyed and the fire is not yet completely out. My office was based in the house and I have lost thousands of photographs which is very sad. But all family and friends are well, which in the end is all that really matters.”
Branson ended the blog post on a positive note, “We will rebuild the house as soon as we can. We have a wonderful staff here and we want them to stay in work. We’ll all stay here. There’s a lot of damage but we’ll create something even more special out of the ruins.”
View more photos of the luxury property and the fire video uploaded by Branson:
Photos: WENN, Richard Branson Blog