Under-fire Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stops attempt to force Hawaii land sale

Facing mounting criticism from islanders and local lawmakers, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday revealed he was dropping his legal gambit to force the sale of land tracts on his seafront property on the island of Kauai that are claimed by native Hawaiians.

“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,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote in Kauai newspaper The Garden Island.

“Now that I understand the issues better, it’s clear we made a mistake,” the billionaire added.

Mr Zuckerberg had previously tried to secure parcels of land within the property by filing quiet title actions, a legal mechanism used to establish ownership and force a sale of land where inheritance rights stretch back generations and formal documentation is lacking.

The Hawaii state representative Kaniela Ing, a Democrat, in response to the controversy has introduced a bill that would require mediation in similar disputes involving native Hawaiians. At the time, the lawmaker likened Mr Zuckerberg’s plans to those of sugar barons who took land from native Hawaiians in the 1800s.

Business Insider reported some Hawaii residents had planned to protest against Mr Zuckerberg’s property on Saturday.

The Garden Island article bore the names of Mr Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, as co-authors at the top, but it only had Mr Zuckerberg’s name listed at the bottom.

“The right path is to sit down and discuss how to best move forward,” the article said.

Forbes reported Mr Zuckerberg paid close to US$100 million for 700 acres on the secluded north shores of Kauai in 2014.

“I’ve got to give him [Zuckerberg] the benefit of the doubt and say it looks like he’s sincere and trying to reach out to the community,” MR Ing said.

But the lawmaker added that he will not withdraw his bill, saying it was needed to help improve Hawaii’s outdated land laws.

Mr Zuckerberg in a previous statement said the estate is made up of several properties and while he worked with majority owners of the tracts to reach a fair deal, he filed the actions to identify all partial owners. “For most of these folks, they will now receive money for something they never even knew they had. No one will be forced off the land,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote in the previous statement.

* Reuters

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