Mahalo, Mark: Zuckerberg rethinks forcing Hawaiian neighbors to sell to him

Just days after Mark Zuckerberg angered some of his native Hawaii neighbors by using legal action to force them to sell their land that sits within the boundaries of his seafront property, the Facebook CEO has decided to make nice.

After filing what are known as ”quiet title” actions to secure some of the small parcels of land that he does not yet own on his Kauai getaway property, Zuckerberg has issued a statement saying he would rethink his legal strategy of forcing neighbors to sell their land, some of it under cloudy title after being passed down through generations.

“Based on feedback from the local community,” he said, according to the Guardian, “we are reconsidering the quiet title process and discussing how to move forward.”

Smart move. Hawaiians had been calling Zuckerberg “the face of neocolonialism” over his real-estate plans, the latest in a string of disputes the young CEO has created with his neighbors, including in Palo Alto and San Francisco, where he owns homes.

Zuckerberg went on to say: “We want to make sure we are following a process that protects the interests of property owners, respects the traditions of native Hawaiians and preserves the environment.”

The news was welcomed by Hawaii state representative Kaniela Ing, who had previously compared Zuckerberg’s plans to the shady dealings by sugar barons who grabbed land from native Hawaiians in the 1800s. Ing went so far as to introduce a bill in the Hawaiian legislature that would require mediation in similar land disputes where native Hawaiians are involved.

“I mahalo Mr Zuckerberg for his words of aloha and willingness to talk,” Ing said in a statement this week, urging the Facebook co-founder to drop the legal actions, as well as support a local legal organization. “Join us at the table to restart a positive dialog as mutual stewards of land and culture,” Ing said, according to the Guardian.

A few days earlier, Zuckerberg posted on Facebook an explanation of his Hawaii plans as news of the actions spread, drawing unwanted publicity and anger. His motivation? Since his sprawling property contained a few parcels still titled to native Hawaiians, he was simply trying to clean up the ownership paperwork by identifying the rightful owners and then, essentially, buying them out. The confusing part was that some of the tracts were actually ”owned” by hundreds of different descendants of the original and now-dead owners.

“For most of these folks they will now receive money for something they never even knew they had. No one will be forced off the land,” he wrote.

Zuckerberg paid more than $100 million for a 700-acre home-away-from-home for his family in the sleepy burg of Kilauea and his lawyers had lately been trying to untangle a generations-old ownership puzzle involving about eight acres owned by other people. A partner at Cades Schutte, a Honolulu law firm representing Zuckerberg, said last week that the situation was complicated.

“It is common in Hawaii to have small parcels of land within the boundaries of a larger tract, and for the title to these smaller parcels to have become broken or clouded over time,” said Keoni Shultz. “In some cases, co-owners may not even be aware of their interests. Quiet title actions are the standard and prescribed process to identify all potential co-owners, determine ownership, and ensure that, if there are other co-owners, each receives appropriate value for their ownership share.”

Photo: Pilaa Beach, below hillside and ridgetop land owned by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in Hawaii. (Ron Kosen/AP)


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  • lithium451

    The guy proves time and again he’s pretty tone deaf.

  • malavika

    Facebook is evil