LIHUE >> A Kauai resident who had partnered with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg won a public auction today for three out of four small pieces of land isolated within the tech billionaire’s 700-acre estate on the island.
Carlos Andrade, a retired University of Hawaii professor of Hawaiian studies, submitted a $1,060,000 bid for three parcels totaling about 2 acres.
A group of Andrade’s relatives succeeded in outbidding Andrade for a fourth parcel, which is 5,227 square feet, with a $700,000 bid outside state Circuit Court in Lihue.
The auction results are subject to confirmation by a state judge at a future hearing in which new bids that are at least 5 percent higher than the one’s submitted today will be considered and could result in completed sales.
All four parcels were once owned by Manuel Rapozo, a Portuguese sugar cane plantation worker who acquired the lands in 1894. After Rapozo died, the land passed to his heirs and over more time to subsequent generations.
This kuleana, or shared family, property gave descendents of Rapozo rights to cross surrounding property to access the family lands.
Zuckerberg partnered with Andrade to file a quiet title lawsuit in 2016 to have a judge force Rapozo family members to sell their fractional interests in their land because it would not be possible to subdivide the property into equitable pieces for so many people.
The lawsuit claimed that there could be as many as 300 partial owners.
Andrade, who had cared for and lived on the property in recent decades while also paying property taxes for the land, said he wanted to acquire the parcels for his immediate family and his own descendents. He also said that he could not afford the expensive quiet title litigation, so he partnered with Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg, who bought 700 acres in 2015 for about $100 million, had bought fractional interests in the Rapozo parcels from some of Manuel Rapozo’s descendents, giving him standing to file the quiet title litigation in late 2016.
After heavy public criticism, Zuckerberg withdrew as a plaintiff in the case in early 2017, leaving Andrade to press ahead.
Andrade made his bids today through Kauai attorney Harvey Cohen, who declined to say whether Zuckerberg has helped Andrade with finances to carry out the litigation and bidding.
Wayne Rapozo, a distant cousin of Andrade living in London, organized a group of relatives to bid against Andrade. His group submitted the high bid for the fourth parcel through Kauai attorney Craig De Costa.
Before today’s midday auction, a small opposition group gathered outside the court building to protest the process.
About a dozen people with signs criticizing Zuckerberg for his role in the sales proceedings assembled close to the courthouse steps where bidding is scheduled to take place.
“This is our aina (land),” said Healani Sonoda-Pale, who has kuleana lands, or shared family lands, on Molokai. Sonoda-Pale flew to Kauai from Oahu and held a sign saying, “Zuckerberg you’re disrespectful of Hawaiian culture.”
“I’m here to support, kakoo, the families,” she said.
Kauai resident Puanani Rogers added: “You malama (care for) the aina. It’s for your children and great-grandchildren. How dare they make decisions for my great-grandchildren.”