Mark Zuckerberg Drops Controversial Suits to Force Sale of Hawaiian Lands

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife are dropping controversial suits they filed in December to buy small plots of land that are part of a 700-acre waterfront estate they own on the island of Kauai in Hawaii.

In a letter published in The Garden Island, a local newspaper, Zuckerberg wrote of the complex legal tangle, “it’s clear we made a mistake.”

Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan bought the 700-acre waterfront estate on Kauai for $100 million in 2014. In December 2016, they filed eight lawsuits against several hundred people to buy 13 plots on eight acres partitioned during the 1850s.

Ownership of some of the plots was unclear, crossing multiple generations and many heirs. According to Zuckerberg’s letter, some have had no inhabitants for decades. Others come with complex legal land agreements dating back more than 160 years.

The plots are mostly one acre or smaller and all lie within the 700-acre estate.

Zuckerberg’s legal maneuver, called “quiet title and partition,” was meant to clarify ownership rights to the land and force it to be sold to the highest bidder through a public auction, allowing Zuckerberg to purchase it.

Some Hawaiians had harshly criticized the maneuver after the suits became public. The outcry grew louder after Zuckerberg took to Facebook to explain his intent, with some charging him with contributing to a trend with roots in colonialism. A group is planning a protest at the wall of Zuckerberg’s estate Saturday.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Elizabeth Weise