- REUTERS/Rick Wilking and Trulia
Mark Zuckerberg paid close to $100 million for 700 acres of beachfront property on the island of Kauai in 2014.
Now the Facebook billionaire is suing a few hundred Hawaiians who still have legal-ownership claims to parts of his vacation estate through their ancestors, as first reported by the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
Three holding companies controlled by Zuckerberg filed eight lawsuits in local court on December 30 against families who collectively inherited 14 parcels of land through the Kuleana Act, a Hawaiian law established in 1850 that for the first time gave natives the right to own the land that they lived on.
The 14 parcels total just 8.04 of the 700 acres Zuckerberg owns, but the law gives any direct family member of a parcel’s original owner the right to enter the otherwise private compound. Only one of the parcels is being used, by a retired professor named Carlos Andrade, who has joined Zuckerberg as a coplaintiff in the lawsuits.
The quiet-title suits filed are designed to identify all property owners and give them the ability to sell their ownership stakes at auction, according to Keoni Shultz, an attorney representing Zuckerberg. Because the ownership stakes are passed down and divided among family descendants by the state, many people don’t realize they have a claim until action is taken against them in court.
“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,” Shultz told Business Insider in a statement. “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.”
In a post on his Facebook page Thursday, Zuckerberg said he filed the quiet title action suits to “make sure smaller partial owners get paid for their fair share too.”
“For most of these folks, they will now receive money for something they never even knew they had,” he said. “No one will be forced off the land.”
“We are working with a professor of native Hawaiian studies and long time member of this community, who is participating in this quiet title process with us,” he continued, referencing Carlos Andrade. “It is important to us that we respect Hawaiian history and traditions.”
This isn’t the first time that Zuckerberg has taken steps to fortify his Kauai property. Last year he angered neighbors by constructing a rock wall that blocked their views of the ocean.