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Mark Zuckerberg Drops Property Lawsuits to Force Sale of Hawaiian Lands

Jan. 28 (UPI) — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has decided to drop a series of lawsuits to buy plots of lands in Hawaii after public backlash.

Zuckerberg published a letter in the local Hawaiian newspaper The Garden Island saying it was clear the decision to file the suits over his ownership of the beachfront property on the island of Kauai was a mistake.

“To find a better path forward, we are dropping our quiet title actions and will work together with the community on a new approach,” he said. “We understand that for native Hawaiians, kuleana are sacred and the quiet title process can be difficult. We want to make this right, talk with the community, and find a better approach.”

Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan purchased the 700-acre waterfront estate on Kauai for $100 million in 2014 and filed a series of eight lawsuits to buy out several hundred people’s stake of 13 plots on eight acres partitioned during the 1850s, according to USA Today.

He initially defended the move, saying the purpose of the quiet title action was to identify property owners who were unaware of their stake in the land, according to Forbes.

“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,” Zuckerberg’s lawyer, Keoni Schultz, said earlier in January.

The suit was met with heavy criticism by some Hawaiians including a group who planned to protest outside Zuckerberg’s estate on Saturday.

Zuckerberg said he initially misunderstood the quiet title process and hoped to work with the community to find a better solution.

“Upon reflection, I regret that I did not take the time to fully understand the quiet title process and its history before we moved ahead. Now that I understand the issues better, it’s clear we made a mistake,” he said. “The right path is to sit down and discuss how to best move forward. We will continue to speak with community leaders that represent different groups, including native Hawaiians and environmentalists, to find the best path.”

Many of the plots of land involved in the suits are “kuleana lands” which were granted to native Hawaiian tenant farmers between 1850 and 1855 and hold special rights including access, agricultural uses, gathering, water and fishing rights.

Zuckerberg said 72-year-old retired University of Hawaii professor Carlos Andrade is the only inhabitant of the kuleana lands belonging to his great grandfather Manuel Rapozo.

Andrade, who was a co-plaintiff with Zuckerberg in some of the suits, will continue to pursue the cases to clear up titles on the land belonging to his family.

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