Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg used his own social media platform today to explain his effort in court to acquire several small pieces of land on Kauai from Hawaii families.
Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post that some stories about his legal action are misleading.
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“I want to clear this up,” he said in the post. “We want to create a home on the island, and help preserve the wildlife and natural beauty. We love Hawaii and we want to be good members of the community and preserve the environment. We look forward to working closely with the community for years to come.”
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser first reported on Wednesday that the billionaire, through companies he controls, filed eight “quiet title” lawsuits on Dec. 30 in Circuit Court, seeking to force owners of 14 small properties to sell their stakes in their land at public auction. The 14 parcels are surrounded by roughly 700 acres on Kauai’s north shore that Zuckerberg bought two years ago for about $100 million. Under Hawaii law, the owners of these parcels have rights to access their property through Zuckerberg’s land.
Through the quiet title law, Zuckerberg aims to identify family members who share ownership of the 14 parcels. After a judge validates who the lawful owners are and their share of ownership, the judge can order that all the ownership shares be sold at auction because it wouldn’t be possible to physically divide the land amongst all owners. In one of the lawsuits, it is alleged that ownership of four parcels totaling two acres is divided among more than a hundred members of one family.
Zuckerberg aims to acquire these ownership interests at an auction.
In his Facebook post, Zuckerberg said he worked with the majority owners of each property and reached a voluntary deal they thought was fair.
“As with most transactions, the majority owners have the right to sell their land if they want, but we need to make sure smaller partial owners get paid for their fair share too,” he said. “In Hawaii, this is where it gets more complicated. As part of Hawaiian history, in the mid-1800s, small parcels were granted to families, which after generations might now be split among hundreds of descendants. There aren’t always clear records, and in many cases descendants who own 1/4 percent or 1 percent of a property don’t even know they are entitled to anything.
“To find all these partial owners so we can pay them their fair share, we filed what is called a ‘quiet title’ action. 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.”
Some of the stories, written after the Star-Advertiser story was published, have suggested that Zuckerberg is kicking owners off their land, including a story in The Register, a technology publication in the United Kingdom, that was published with the headline “Zuck off: Facebook’s big kahuna sues Hawaiians to kick ‘em off their land.”