This week, more on the multi-year Facebook owner land controversy here on Kauai. Four small properties, located within Mark Zuckerberg’s Kauai mega-estate, and of limited financial value to anyone other than Zuckerberg, were sold to a retired UH professor for over $2M. That, in a bizarre bidding war against a group of (the professor’s) other family members.
To bring levity to an otherwise bad situation, we are reminded of Gilligan’s Island, which was filmed here on Kauai. Replete with the stranded professor and the millionaire (or this case, billionaire). But if you think something is fishy beyond the Ahi in the waters, read on.
Why did Mark Zuckerberg get involved in what appeared to be a local family dispute?
This started over two years ago when the UH professor, who is a member of the family of landowners, informed his relatives that he was going to sue them to obtain their land. In that effort, he was supported by what has since been referred to as a shell company controlled by Zuckerberg.
You’ll recall that Zuckerberg initially bought the property in 2014 for over $100M and that’s when all the trouble began. First to to erect an extremely unpopular and not Kauai-like wall surrounding the land and second to control the many small Kuleana lands contained within the 700 acre property. Those were needed to control privacy and access.
We went up to the property soon after it was sold and reported on Mark Zuckerberg House on Kauai at Pila`a Beach.
Kuleana land on Kauai.
Kuleana lands were originally designed to convey ownership rights largely to Native Hawaiians, who previously had communal ownership of land.
At issue here was control of four small “Kuleana” land parcels that were handed down from Manuel Rapozo. A seemingly innocuous company named Northshore Kalo LLC came along that wanted to help clear up the property title by enabling the UH professor to take ownership and subsequently pay off his other family members for their shares. Sounds okay, no?
Enters a Zuckerberg shell company.
Honolulu Star Advertiser was first to reveal that Northshore Kalo wasn’t at all as it appeared, but was in actuality a shell company they said was controlled by Zuckerberg. At that time, Facebook’s owner was pursuing eight lawsuits related to small Kauai land parcels that were within his 700 acre planned mega estate. In another lawsuit, it is alleged that Professor “Andrade’s bid at the auction will be financed by Zuckerberg or an entity he controls.”
For those who Zuckerberg sued, their options were to sell their partial shares in the land or to try to outbid Zuckerberg. There were threats regarding legal fees too, which further exacerbated the fear and consternation.
Then came what on the surface was an about face.
Does anyone know better how to spin news than the king of Facebook?
In an attempt to control a media nightmare, Zuckerberg published in our Garden Island newspaper, a piece that apologized and stated that the pending suits would be dropped. Sounds great, no?
In a change in methdology apparently designed to accomplish the exact same outcome, Zuckerberg said he would support the UH professor’s claim to these Kuleana lands.
Other Rapozo family members realized the futility involved, but continued to resist this forced sale. They assert that Zuckerberg’s involvement has made a legal mockery of Hawaii’s land system and courts. Nonetheless they have continued to fight for access to their family property and access to the beach.
History of the property.
The original land owner, Manuel Rapozo, came to Kauai from the Azores in the late 1800’s during the flood of immigration from Spain and Portugal, and became a citizen of the Kingdom. He died in 1918, at which time his land began passing through generations of family members.
When Zuckerberg bought the 700 acre parcel, Rapozo family members still had keys to the gate and were able to access the land and the beach. Family members throughout the islands have remained opposed to this outcome for their ancestrial land.
Enters billionaire “tag team tango.”
According to Wayne Rapozo, a family member who grew up here and now lives in the UK, Zuckerberg and the UH professor are a “tag team tango of billionaire and dissident cousin” who can do as they will with those who have no means or legal recourse to fight them. “This case sets a horrible precedent which is un-American and un-Hawaiian. They are making Hawaii look like a banana republic or colonial possession.”
How can you not wonder where the professor, supposedly on a fixed income, attained the ability to pay $2M for these small lands. Rumors circulating say that he is being funded by Zuckerberg. “…Based on Andrade’s ‘own bravado boasting,’ that he is being paid by Zuckerberg to restrict access.”
To Zuckerberg’s team and the professor, this process is apparently nothing more than an appropriate legal way to compensate these fractional family owners for their shares. Professor Andrade’s attorney said “it is not reasonable or practical for 138 parties to own and control 2.35 acres. The quiet title process exists to address such matters, so that there is a clear owner based on an individual’s ownership interests and history with the land.”
Zuckerberg’s spokesperson said “As Mark stated in his op-ed, he supports Dr Andrade’s claim to the property because Dr Andrade is the only member of the family to have cared for, lived on and paid taxes on this land and he did so over the course of 40 years. Mark kept his word and withdrew from the quiet title actions as a plaintiff. As required by law, Northshore Kalo became a defendant in the actions alongside the other individuals holding interests in the land. Neither Mark nor Northshore Kalo will bid at the auction. In fact, following the completion of the quiet title actions, neither Mark nor Northshore Kalo will own any interest in any of the kuleana involved in the quiet title action.”
“An action to quiet title is a lawsuit brought in a court having jurisdiction over property disputes, in order to establish a party’s title to real property, or personal property having a title, of against anyone and everyone, and thus ‘quiet’ any challenges or claims to the title.” — Wikipedia
We look forward to hearing your take on this Kauai controversy.