11 July 2001

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Maltese millionaire sells Irish gem
By David Lindsay

Maltese lateral thinking guru Edward de Bono has decided to sell his 33-acre island, West Skeam, located just off the coast of western Ireland. The island, which De Bono had purchased for £350,000 sterling five years ago, has been placed on the market for in excess of £1million sterling.

West Skeam was originally intended to be utilised by De Bono as a retreat for high-rolling business leaders eager to learn more about his loudly trumpeted ‘lateral thinking’ - a phrase he had coined in the late 1960s.

The self-help master, highly lauded as Malta’s answer to Plato yet often criticised elsewhere for his rather pompous approach, seems to have a thing for islands.

The fact that he is from one may have something to do with it, as he also owns a number of other island retreats – with bases in the Venice lagoon, the Bahamas and in northern Australia.

However, the milder climate of these other sun-drenched have proved far more popular with De Bono's business clients than the weather-beaten untamed West Skeam, rumoured to be a primary factor in his decision to sell.

Although he has decided to let go of his Irish gem, De Bono, who has churned out over 50 books in his 68 years, has not turned his back on the Emerald Isle altogether and, in fact, he recently held separate meetings with both Gerry Adams and David Trimble in a bid to use his new thinking techniques to facilitate negotiations in the Irish political turmoil.

In the meantime, he has also discussed the possibility of setting up what he calls a ‘world centre for conflict resolution’ in Ireland with former Irish finance minister, Ruairi Quinn.

Such concoctions have earned De Bono a rather dubious reputation in many circles. In fact, a columnist writing in one of the UK’s most prestigious dailies, The Guardian, comments that De Bono has suffered at the hands of journalists, who very often find his theories more an occasion for a good chuckle than inspiring lateral thinking.

The columnist writes, "But it remains unclear how far de Bono has actually been harmed by hacks. Looking through our cuttings file, I find it dominated by glowing accounts of his achievements under headlines such as ‘The Incredible Thinking Man’.

"Not only that: his attempts to intervene in various disputes are respectfully documented – ‘De Bono offers proposals on pit strike’, "De Bono 's Marmite plan for peace in Middle Yeast" - though the success or otherwise of his proposals tends to go unreported. Still more often, newspapers have invited de Bono himself to promulgate his fancies, and, thereby, his books.

"De Bono's lingering preoccupation with a handful of journalists is all the more surprising when you consider his belief, displayed prominently on his website, that "human language may be the biggest barrier to further human progress". With his latest work, The De Bono Codebook, he offers a superior form of communication: a system of numbers, or as he puts it, "A universal code for perceiving and communicating complex situations."

De Bono has invested much of his renowned wealth in bricks and mortar. He currently owns a 17th century mansion in Malta, a mews home in South Kensington, a country manor in Norfolk and apartments in London, New York, Venice and Sydney.

West Skeam island includes three houses, a derelict 9th century church, two smaller islands named Leighillaum and Illaunatrumppaum, a run-down airstrip, two deep water moorings, four beaches, one unfinished house, a generator house, a private pier and a deep water pump providing fresh water year-round.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt