Week of January 29, 2001
Editor's Choice Web Pick
Eureka, Location Utopia . . .
Have we got a location for you. Oh, boy, do we.
It's set in the sunny Caribbean, a perfect place for employee recruitment and retention. And your shareholders will go ga-ga over the fact that the location has virtually no taxes.
There is, however, a slight problem. This property, you see, is located in a nation -- "the Principality of New Utopia" -- that doesn't yet exist. New Utopia, in fact, is primarily a Web site (www.new-utopia.com).
Your contact person for this dream location, you ask? Why, that would be one Lazarus Long, the self-proclaimed "His Royal Highness" of New Utopia. Long is a 69-year-old Tulsa, Okla., entrepreneur, who spent his life as Howard Turney until 1995. That was when he legally changed his name to that of a character in a novel by Robert Heinlein (author of Stranger in a Strange Land).
And, no, we're not making any of this up.
Sounds preposterous, you say? You bet. This is a wild-'n-wooly Web site that's probably of serious interest only to expansion planners who are working virtually . . . out of padded cells.
SEC Looks Askance at TacticsSome hopeful souls, however, have expressed serious interest.
Five hundred folks have ponied up $1,500 for the right to be "charter citizens" of New Utopia, according to Lazarus Long (who prefers to be called "Prince Lazarus").
That, in turn, drew serious interest from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC charged Prince Lazarus with running an Internet securities swindle, offering charter citizens five-year $1,500 bonds that promised to pay 9.5 percent annual interest.
(The SEC slapped Long with a restraining order, followed by permanent injunction in January of 2000. The Web site now asks charter citizen applicants for a $1,500 "contribution.")
A Submerged SiteNew Utopia does have a physical presence. So to speak.
It's a 284-sq.-mile (736-sq.-km.) swath of the Caribbean that's located some 115 miles (185 km.) west of the Cayman Islands atop the Misteriosa Bank, an undersea mountain range some 12 feet (3.7 meters) underwater. (Misteriosa Bank is an actual place name, not another of New Utopia's many and curious coined terms.)
New Utopia, however, doesn't exactly own the land; it's only claimed it. Long, however, insists that the land-grab is legal, since the site is in international waters.
New Utopia's plans call for constructing a nation atop concrete stilts. Each set of stilts would support a concrete slab the size of a city block. Located on those suspended slabs would be condos, office buildings, hotels, theaters, shopping centers, green space, parks, recreational facilities, even an airport and a university (the latter, obviously, specializing in virtual learning).
But no cars. Long says that New Utopia residents will travel between the slabs-on-stilts via gondolas navigating a system of canals. "The Venice of the Caribbean," Prince Lazarus calls the concept.
Even in Location Utopia,
Well, there's yet another slight problem here.
Phase-one construction was scheduled to begin in September 1999. That didn't happen. New Utopia's Web site, however, contains an Oct. 7, 2000, posting that said, "After months of negotiations, a consortium of international developers has made a commitment to start construction in our new country before the first of next year. The initial projects have a total estimated construction cost of well over $4 billion!"
New Utopia's 2000 construction startup date, however, came and went . . . away. The only other scheduling information we could find was from a Web link to New Island Developments (www.gaa.to/projects), which seems to be the alleged "consortium of international developers." (But don't expect the Web site to disclose any actual names of those "international developers"; they're not there.)
New Island's Web site, though, is primarily a very vague online commercial for the project (which it calls "New Utopia Resorts"). New Island's site, however, does say, "[New Utopia] construction begins in 2001."
And for the truly, madly adventurous, New Island's site offers this: "a chance to participate through the purchase and earning undivided interest in properties and project shares within this development."
Who knows? Perhaps New Utopia is on the up-and-up.
Similarly, perhaps Elvis and Amelia Earhart are both alive and well and living on a remote island somewhere.
Somewhere like, hmmm, say, the Principality of New Utopia?
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©2001 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.