After Feeling Intense Public Pressure, Facebook Co-Founder Reverses Course, Drops Quiet Title Suits Intended To Compel Public Sale Of Real State & Force Group Of Native Hawaiians Off Ancestral Land; Subject Parcels Located Within Facebook Co-Founder's Recently-Purchased 700-Acre Beachfront Estate
- When Facebook’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg paid around $100 million for 700 acres of rural beachfront land on Kauai two years ago to create what Forbes magazine described as a secluded family sanctuary, he actually acquired a not-so-secluded property.
Close to a dozen small parcels within Zuckerberg’s Kauai estate are owned by kamaaina families who have rights to traverse the billionaire’s otherwise private domain.
Now the Facebook CEO is trying to enhance the seclusion of his property by filing several lawsuits aimed at forcing these families to sell their land at a public court auction to the highest bidder.
The legal action known as “quiet title and partition” isn’t uncommon in Hawaii. Yet even with an order from a judge and financial compensation, forcing people to sell land that has been in their families for generations can be off-putting — especially when it’s driven by the sixth-richest person in the world.
***A Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law primer on quiet title and partition law titled “E ‘Onipaa i ke Kulaiwi” said using the law to compel land sales has reduced Native Hawaiian landownership: “Partition by sale in particular is highly problematic for the Native Hawaiian community because it severs a family’s connection to ancestral land.”
Zuckerberg, through several companies he controls, filed the lawsuits against a few hundred people — many living and some dead — who inherited or once owned interests in what are known as kuleana lands where ownership is often largely undocumented.
***Hawaii’s quiet title law can be used to establish legal title to such land. However, quieting these “noisy” real estate titles is expensive and therefore doesn’t happen often unless someone with the financial resources and interest in the property becomes engaged.
For story update, see Mark Zuckerberg drops suits to force sale of Hawaiian lands:
- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife are dropping controversial suits they filed in December to buy small plots of land that are part of a 700-acre waterfront estate they own on the island of Kauai in Hawaii.
In a letter published in The Garden Island, a local newspaper, Zuckerberg wrote of the complex legal tangle, "it's clear we made a mistake."
Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan bought the 700-acre waterfront estate on Kauai for $100 million in 2014. In December 2016, they filed eight lawsuits against several hundred people to buy 13 plots on eight acres partitioned during the 1850s.***Some Hawaiians had harshly criticized the maneuver after the suits became public. The outcry grew louder after Zuckerberg took to Facebook to explain his intent, with some charging him with contributing to a trend with roots in colonialism.