Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg 'reconsidering' lawsuits to force property sales in Hawaii

Mark Zuckerberg
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Mark Zuckberberg soon could be getting some more "likes" in Hawaii.

The Facebook CEO now says he is "reconsidering" a set of lawsuits that he recently filed to compel hundreds of Hawaiians to sell him small plots of land they own that lie within his 700-acre beachfront property on the island of Kauai.

The billionaire's potential about-face came after widespread publicity last week about the suits, which target a dozen plots covering slightly more than 8 acres of land strewn throughout the acreage that Zuckerberg bought for $100 million two years ago.

Currently, owners of the lots, which have been in their families for generations, have the rights to travel across Zuckerberg's property. But many of the owners likely are unaware of their ownership interest in the plots.

Last week, Zuckerberg said, "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."

But on Tuesday night, Zuckerberg said, "Based on feedback from the local community, we are reconsidering the quiet title process and discussing how to move forward."

"We want to make sure we are following a process that protects the interests of property owners, respects the traditions of native Hawaiians, and preserves the environment."

Zuckerberg added, "We love Kauai. We want to be good members of the community and preserve the land for generations to come."

Zuckerberg-controlled companies filed eight so-called quiet title lawsuits in a Kauai court on Dec. 30 requesting the forced sales at public auction to the highest bidder. If successful, the suits would allow him to make his secluded beachfront land on the island's north shore even more private, according the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper.

Many of the defendants are living, but some are dead. The defendants may hold just a tiny fraction of ownership in the parcels because they are several generations removed from the original owners.

Last week, Zuckerberg's lawyer Keoni Shultz told CNBC, "It is common in Hawaii to have small parcels of land within the boundaries of a larger tract, and for the title to these smaller parcels to have become broken or clouded over time."

"In some cases, co-owners may not even be aware of their interests," Shultz said. "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."

The cases target a dozen small plots of "kuleana" lands that are inside the much larger property that Zuckerberg bought on Kauai. Kuleana lands are properties that were granted to native Hawaiians in the mid-1800s.

Some of the people who own, or who are believed to own, lands targeted by Zuckerberg's suits are descendants of the original owners.