Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is suing hundreds of Hawaiians to force them to sell their land so he can maintain his secluded property.
Zuckerberg paid some $100 million two years ago for 700 acres of beachfront property on the island of Kauai, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. What was described as a secluded family sanctuary by Forbes magazine is apparently not so private.
The sixth-richest person in the world soon discovered there were nearly a dozen small parcels of land within his property. The parcels are owned by several families who have rights to cross the billionaire’s private estate.
Now he is trying to force the families to sell their properties at a public auction in a “quiet title and partition” suit. The land, which comprises more than eight acres, has belonged to the families for several generations, CNBC reported.
The eight lawsuits were filed by Zuckerberg-controlled companies in a Kauai court on Dec. 30 with a request the families sell the land to the highest bidder at public auction. The defendants were given 20 days to respond to the lawsuit or forfeit their rights in participating in the proceedings.
The hundreds of defendants include those living and dead from the several generations of families. Some of them hold only a small ownership in the parcels and in some cases are several generations removed from the original owners over the years.
It is common for people to own small parcels of land within a larger property, Zuckerberg’s attorney, Keoni Shultz of the Cades Schutte law firm, said in a statement to CNBC.
He said these types of lawsuits are also common and some of the owners may not even know they hold interest in the properties.
"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," Schutte said in the statement.
The plots of land within Zuckerberg’s property are known as “kuleana” lands that were distributed to native Hawaiians in the 1800s.
Carlos Andrade, 72, is the great-grandchild of an immigrant Portuguese sugar cane plantation worker who bought four parcels of the land in 1894, according to the Star-Advertiser. One of the lawsuits was filed against some 300 descendants of that worker.
Andrade, now a retired university professor, is assisting Zuckerberg as a co-plaintiff, saying he wants to make sure descendants receive their fair share of the land without having it forfeited because they didn’t take responsibility for paying property taxes, the Star-Advertiser reported. He estimated that more than 80 percent of his relatives are unaware of their potential interest in the land.
Zuckerburg posted a response to what he called "misleading stories" about the lawsuits on Facebook.
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