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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, March 26, 2005

Oprah's ranch may have guests

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui Bureau

KULA, Maui — Is Oprah Winfrey getting into the vacation rental business on Maui?

That's what it looks like after the Maui County Council this week gave initial approval to a bill granting O.W. Ranch LLC a five-year conditional permit to operate a 12-bedroom vacation rental in the former Silver Cloud Guest Ranch in Kula, which closed a few years ago.

If you haven't figured it out yet, the OW in O.W. Ranch stands for Oprah Winfrey. Or so it seems.

Tom Welch, an attorney and Maui representative of O.W. Ranch, wouldn't confirm the celebrity's involvement in the venture, saying Winfrey likes to keep her personal life private.

But Gideon Kaufman, a Aspen, Colo.-based legal representative of Winfrey and an officer of the O.W. Ranch, said: "I'll let the initials stand for themselves."

According to Maui property tax records, the 9-acre Thompson Road land on which the former Silver Cloud Guest Ranch sits is owned by O.W. Ranch, with the listing of a Santa Barbara, Calif., address in care of Bob Greene, Winfrey's friend and personal trainer. He's the man credited with slimming down the television superstar.

O.W. Ranch also owns an adjacent 6.3 acres, with an address the same as Winfrey's Chicago-based Harpo Productions.

Winfrey and Greene made the news in 2002 when they bought 102 acres on the Hana Coast with plans to build separate homes. A year later O.W. Ranch bought the land in Kula.

Kaufman said O.W. Ranch's plan is to conduct some remodeling and renovations to restore the condition of the inn's structures.

He said it's likely the operation will run much like the former Silver Cloud Guest Ranch, which was once part of the Thompson Ranch, said to be founded in 1902 by a sailor who jumped ship when he got to Maui.

The Silver Cloud featured a main Plantation House where guests in six rooms used common kitchen, dining and living areas, a Mauka Hale bunkhouse featuring five units with private kitchens, bathrooms and lanai, and a separate Lanai Cottage for honeymooners.

"We're looking forward to operating Silver Cloud like it once was," Kaufman said.

Asked whether Winfrey owns any similar kinds of business ventures, Kaufman said: "Not that I'm aware of."

Reach Timothy Hurley at thurley@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 244-4880.