Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg buys 600 more acres on Kauai

Pacific Business News
By Janis L. Magin – Senior Editor

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have acquired nearly 600 more acres of land on Kauai for $53 million from a nonprofit established by a local family whose roots go back to the days of the Hawaiian kingdom, bringing the Facebook CEO’s land holdings in Hawaii to more than 1,300 acres.

Chan and Zuckerberg closed on the purchase of three parcels totaling 595.4 acres, including land fronting Larsen’s Beach, on March 19, according to the deeds filed with the state Bureau of Conveyances. The transaction didn’t include the beach access road, which is owned by the county and remains open to the public.

The couple said in a statement that they plan to continue the work the seller, Waioli Corp., has done to conserve the land known as Lepeuli, while also keeping the lease with the current tenant, Paradise Ranch.

“Waioli does essential work promoting conservation and cultural preservation and we are mindful of their legacy with regard to this land,” Chan and Zuckerberg said. “We are committed to honoring the current ranching lease to Paradise Ranch and extending the existing agricultural dedication.

“We have been working closely with a number of community partners to promote conservation, produce sustainable agriculture and protect native wildlife at our ranch and in the surrounding areas and look forward to extending that effort to Lepeuli in the months ahead.”

Chan and Zuckerberg — who is the fifth-richest person in the world with a net worth of more than $110 billion, according to Forbes — bought the land through a limited liability company registered in Delaware whose member is San Francisco-based Square Seven Management LLC, according to the deeds filed with the Hawaii Bureau of Conveyances. Square Seven is managed by wealth manager Iconiq Capital LLC, whose clients include Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg began amassing the Kauai estate in September 2014 when he bought the 357-acre Kahuaina Plantation from California investment firm Falko Partners and then bought 384 acres from the late Hawaii auto dealer James Pflueger and added more in 2018 for a total of nearly 750 acres. His entities also acquired titles to dozens of smaller lots within the larger parcels that were known as kuleana lands.

Four of the kuleana parcels were conveyed to Carlos Andrade and his wife, Ivy, in July 2019 after a public auction that drew bids from other family members of the parcels’ original owner, Manuel Rapozo. The rest are now owned by Zuckerberg entities.

Chan and Zuckerberg have been building a number of residential and agricultural structures on the properties, which are being used for ranching. According to building permits that total more than $83 million, the largest was a 2018 permit application for a 57,059-square-foot single-family residence with a connected accessory building/dwelling with a total of eight bedrooms, nine full baths and 16 half baths, according to permit filings with the Kauai County Building Division.

The latest acquisition includes a 561.34-acre parcel of land stretching from the ocean to Kuhio Highway, a 1.8-acre parcel on the ocean and a 34.26 parcel on the mauka side of Kuhio Highway for a total of 595.4 acres.

The seller, Waioli Corp., is a nonprofit organization established by members of the kamaaina Wilcox family, who are descended from missionary schoolteachers Abner and Lucy Wilcox.

“The decision provides Waioli with the financial ability to be able to continue our critical conservation and historical work and ensure that Kauai’s cultural history continues to be shared in the community for years to come,” Waipoli Corp. President Sam Pratt said in a statement.

Pratt said the organization chose Chan and Zuckerberg after seeing their “dedication over the years to land conservation, protecting native species and working to preserve the natural beauty of Kauai.”

“We know that this land will remain in their trusted hands and that Mark and Priscilla will act as responsible stewards of Lepeuli today and in the future,” he said.

Hawaii Pacific Health’s Wilcox Medical Center, the largest hospital on Kauai, was named for George N. Wilcox, who bought Grove Farm Plantation in the 1860s. The beneficiaries of Waioli Corp. are descendants of his brothers and sisters.

Waioli Corp. operates the Waioli Mission House museum and the Mahamoku Beach Residence in Hanalei and the Grove Farm Homestead Museum in Lihue.

Case study casts doubt over ESG claims of Canadian pension fund PSP’s major agriculture investment on Maui


Case study casts doubt over ESG claims of Canadian pension fund PSP’s major agriculture investment on Maui, calls for greater scrutiny into the community impact of investments

Responsible Markets today published a case study of an approximately $600 million investment that the $135.59 billion Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP) is making in a former sugar plantation in Maui, Hawai’i. The report found evidence that the Montreal, Canada based pension plan, which invests its capital through PSP Investments, is not living up to its own environmental, social responsibility, and corporate governance (ESG) principles, resulting in adverse impacts on Maui’s environment and residents.

The study entitled “From the Mountains to the Sea: When Big Money Moved in on Maui’s Agriculture” takes a comprehensive look at Mahi Pono LLC, capitalized by PSP. Mahi Pono was created in December of 2018 under management of Pomona Farming, a subsidiary of the California based private equity firm Trinitas Partners. It now owns and operates over 41,000 acres of farmland in Maui’s central plains, which it acquired from long-time plantation owner Alexander & Baldwin.

Among Responsible Markets’ findings is that the success of the Mahi Pono investment is dependent on securing water rights at exceptionally low rates, at a direct economic and cultural cost to the indigenous Hawaiian people, and on the continued diversion of water away from East Maui, a practice that undermines Hawaiian farming communities. Rather than creating local food security as the company has promised, the Mahi Pono business plan is dependent on export crops. Additionally, the company operates secretively and with little transparency, and has failed to generate the number of jobs promised.

“Through Mahi Pono, PSP is seeking to profit by exploiting the resources of the Hawaiian people,” said Shay Chan Hodges, a co-organizer of Responsible Markets’ initiative, the Maui ESG Project, and co-author of the report. “This is not an ESG investment; it is merely a new version of the extractive practices of plantation capitalism that have been so damaging to Maui’s culture, environment, and economy for over 100 years.”

“The Mahi Pono case study illustrates the importance of early community engagement and ongoing partnership in land-based investing,” says Delilah Rothenberg Founder and Executive Director of the Predistribution Initiative, a multi-stakeholder effort to improve investment structures to share more wealth and influence with workers and communities, and ultimately address systemic risks including income inequality and climate change.

“With capital flows that are so intermediated, meaningful relationship development is often overlooked by distant investors – even asset owners and allocators who are taking measures to integrate ESG. Yet this lapse jeopardizes investors’ returns and perpetuates legacies of colonialism, with foreign powers undervaluing the risk that locals take and the value they offer with their land, resources, and labor,” concluded Rothenberg.

“Large private market agricultural land acquisitions in Hawai’i are all too familiar – wealthy investors parachuting in, missing a golden opportunity to ‘build back better’ for all impacted community stakeholders,” says Lisa Kleissner, impact investment pioneer and co-founder of Hawaii Investment Ready. “While access to water is the hook in this report, the water issue serves to underscore the lack of alignment between Mahi Pono’s objectives and the community’s needs. This report comes to the rescue by laying out in clear, pragmatic terms how Mahi Pono LLC and, for that matter, any private investor in agriculture can move investor/community discourse to a new, mutually beneficial level. First, ancestral rights must be acknowledged and addressed. And secondly, the business and financial model must demonstrate evidence-based community-aligned economics.”

The report shows how investors use the language of ESG and impact investment to promote, and invest in, economic opportunities that do not necessarily have a net positive ESG benefit. Responsible Markets calls on PSP and its staff to meet directly with community members and other stakeholders on Maui to understand the problems Mahi Pono is causing as well as the missed opportunities for positive transformative investment. True community intelligence is invaluable and cannot be outsourced to investment managers and advisors.

Fine & Company, LLC to Auction Haina Mill Estate – Outside of Honoka’a

Hawaii Business

On Thursday, November 5th, Fine & Company, LLC, an international real estate auction firm in cooperation with Hana Bay Realty of Hawaiʻi, will auction 48 acres of industrial and agricultural land, buildings, and single-family home next to Honokaʻa, Hawaiʻi.

The Historic Haina Sugar Mill was located on this site and operated from 1868 until the final harvest in 1994, after which the sugar mill closed permanently.

The real estate will sell, subject to a shocking minimum bid of $370,000 for the entirety. Bidders may also bid on five individual tracts or any combination with minimum bids as low as $5,000 for a two-acre tract. Sealed bids are due on or before 2:00 p.m. on November 5.

Michael A. Fine, president of Fine & Company, said: “This is a rare opportunity to acquire land on the Island of Hawaiʻi with difficult to find industrial zoning as well as some with agricultural zoning. Commercial real estate auctions are rare in Hawaiʻi, and even more rare is one with published reserves or minimum bids. Fine & Company publishes minimum bids so that buyers know the seller stands committed to selling, and now it’s up to the bidders to determine market value.”

The property is available for inspection on February 29th at 10:00 a.m. on October 10, 17, 24 & 31 by appointment confirmed at least 24 hours in advance. The purchase of a detailed Bidder’s Information Packet is required to bid. To schedule an inspection or order the packet, call (312) 278-0600 ext. 101.

Mahi Pono Appoints Tsutsui as Senior VP of Operations


Former Hawai‘i Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui will join Mahi Pono, LLC, as its Senior Vice President of Operations and will lead the farming venture on Maui.

“Throughout his years of service, Shan has been a strong advocate and leader in supporting and promoting local food production and sustainable agriculture in Hawai‘i,” said Ann Chin, Mahi Pono president. “As a Maui native, he is sensitive to the needs of the community and embodies our commitment to being responsible stewards of the land and a catalyst for growth.”

As Senior Vice President of Operations, Tsutsui’s responsibilities will include business strategy, management operations, community leadership, and government relations.

“Mahi Pono’s farming venture represents a significant step forward in advancing agricultural opportunities on Maui,” said Tsutsui. “It is an honor to be part of this initiative and be able to continue working toward strengthening agricultural sustainability in Hawai‘i, so that we can make a lasting impact on our keiki (children).”

On Dec. 10, Mahi Pono announced the purchase of approximately 41,000 acres of former Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) lands on the island of Maui from Alexander & Baldwin. Mahi Pono is planning a full range of agricultural operations and related uses. There are no plans to convert any of the lands to non-agricultural purposes. Mahi Pono’s plans help ensure the continued use of the former HC&S lands for agriculture, the preservation of green, open space in Central Maui, and a consistent and long-term source of revenue for the local economy.

“We are committed to becoming a positive contributor to the local community. In the coming months, I look forward to working closely with the Maui community to discuss the best ways to support and strengthen local agriculture,” added Tsutsui.

Tsutsui joins Mahi Pono from Strategies 360, a strategic positioning firm, where he will continue to serve as managing partner.

During his terms as the Lieutenant Governor of the State of Hawai‘i, he created and oversaw various programs and initiatives that supported and promoted education, sustainability and sports, including the Resource for Enrichment, Athletics, Culture and Health (R.E.A.C.H.) initiative, ‘Aina Pono Hawai‘i State Farm to School Initiative, Sports Development Initiative, among other programs. Previously, Tsutsui served as a Hawai‘i State Senator and became the first Senate President selected from Maui. He is a former small business owner and financial advisor.

Tsutsui graduated from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics, and is a graduate of Maui High School. He resides on Maui with his wife Lyndelle and their three daughters.

Mahi Pono purchases Alexander & Baldwin’s former HC&S Lands

  • Mahi Pono, a farming venture between Pomona Farming and Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board, purchases approximately 41,000 acres of agricultural farmland from Alexander & Baldwin
  • Former sugarcane lands to remain in agriculture and become diversified, GMO-free farms

HONOLULU–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Mahi Pono, LLC, today announced the purchase of approximately 41,000 acres of former Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company lands on the island of Maui from Alexander & Baldwin. This agreement ensures the continued use of these lands for agriculture, the preservation of green, open space in Central Maui, and a consistent and long-term source of revenue for the local economy.

Mahi Pono (which means “to farm or cultivate morally and properly”) is a farming venture between Pomona Farming, LLC, a California-based agricultural group, and the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments)—a long-term investor and one of Canada’s largest pension investment managers.

Mahi Pono is planning a full range of agricultural operations and related uses. There are no plans to convert any of the lands to non-agricultural purposes.

“With our purchase of this fertile land, we want to help ensure that Maui’s residents can produce agricultural products for future generations,” said Ann Chin, President, Mahi Pono. “We want to expand Maui’s thriving and diversified agriculture industry. As we develop our plans, we will work closely with local stakeholders, including the agricultural community, our neighbors, government officials, civic leaders and the local community.”

“Mahi Pono is committed to sustainable agriculture,” added Chin. “We will be stewards of the land, and responsible users and protectors of Hawai?i’s natural resources and environment.”

“This agreement significantly increases the potential for a meaningful advancement in food security and a renewed pledge to growing agriculture on Maui, topics that continue to resonate with me since I initiated the ‘Aina Pono Hawai’i State Farm-to-School Program in 2015,” said Shan Tsutsui, former Lt. Governor of the State of Hawai?i, former State Senator from Maui and Mahi Pono advisor. “It’s my hope that the fruits of this agreement will have a lasting impact on our keiki (children), the agriculture industry, and the state’s ability to become truly sustainable for many years to come.”

Key elements of Mahi Pono’s plans include:

  • Production of high-quality, non-GMO foodstuffs for local consumption, with export potential.
  • Creation of jobs for local residents, with job training and educational programs for employees.
  • Providing land and water in an agricultural park for use by small, local farmers.
  • Providing local partners with resources such as farming expertise, farming resources and equipment, and development and farming capital.
  • Mahi Pono took over diversified agricultural leases, and purchased Kulolio Ranch and Central Maui Feedstocks, from A&B as part of this agreement.
  • A&B and Mahi Pono will form a joint venture to own and operate East Maui Irrigation Company.
  • All of A&B’s active agricultural personnel will be offered positions with Mahi Pono.

About Pomona Farming

Pomona Farming is committed to using natural resources responsibly, employing the very best farming practices, and acting as a positive contributor to local communities. It has significant experience farming diverse agricultural crops and managing cattle operations on over 100,000 acres. The company is focused purely on agriculture and has a track record of making long-term investments in farming projects.

About PSP Investments

The Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments) is one of Canada’s largest pension investment managers with CAD$158.9 billion of net assets as of September 30, 2018. It manages a diversified global portfolio composed of investments in public financial markets, private equity, real estate, infrastructure, natural resources and private debt. Established in 1999, PSP Investments manages net contributions to the pension funds of the federal Public Service, the Canadian Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Reserve Force. Headquartered in Ottawa, PSP Investments has its principal business office in Montréal and offices in New York and London.

PSP Investments’ Natural Resources Group is committed to responsible, long-term investments in the agriculture and timber sectors globally. It partners with like-minded operators focused on best practices in health and safety, the environment and sustainability. For more information, visit investpsp.com or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Stryker Weiner & Yokota Public Relations, Inc.
Dawn Hirai, Executive Vice President
(808) 523-8802 ext. 212 or (808) 722-9445/mobile

A&B sells former sugar land on Maui for $262M

Pacific Business New
By Janis L. Magin

Alexander & Baldwin has sold 41,000 acres of former sugar land that made up the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. plantation on Maui to a farming venture of California-based Pomona Farming LLC and Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board for $262 million.

As part of the sale, the venture called Mahi Pono LLC also purchased Kulolio Ranch, A&B’s grass-fed cattle project; Central Maui Feedstocks, A&B’s energy crop project; and all of A&B’s diversified agriculture leases. A&B said it will also partner with Mahi Pono in the ownership and management of East Maui Irrigation Co.

Mahi Pono plans to cultivate “a broad range of food crops” on the land, including coffee, fruits and vegetables for local consumption and export, and plans to expand the beef project at Kulolio Ranch, Honolulu-based Alexander & Baldwin (NYSE: ALEX), said in a statement. Former Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui, who also served as a state senator representing Maui, worked as an advisor to Mahi Pono.

Ann Chin, president of Mahi Pono, said the group was “committed to sustainable agriculture.”

“With our purchase of this fertile land, we want to help ensure that Maui’s residents can produce agricultural products for future generations,” Chin said in a statement. “We want to expand Maui’s thriving and diversified agriculture industry. As we develop our plans, we will work closely with local stakeholders, including the agricultural community, our neighbors, government officials, civic leaders and the local community.”

All current A&B agricultural employees will be offered positions with Mahi Pono, both companies said. A&B closed the HC&S plantation at the end of 2016 after holding the last sugar harvest; nearly 700 workers lost their jobs with the closure.

“A&B’s commitment, when we made the difficult decision to close our sugar operations, was to team up with qualified farmers and transition these lands to a diversified agriculture model,” President and CEO Chris Benjamin said in a statement. “We acknowledged that this transition would take time, but could support the important goals of food and energy self-sufficiency for Hawaii, preserve productive agricultural lands, and stimulate new economic activity on Maui and in the state.”

A&B, which talked about diversified agriculture after the plantation closed, said it has held discussions with “hundreds of parties,” most interested in farming a single crop on the parts of the former plantation land.

Pomona Farming, based in Redwood City, California, says on its website that it “has significant experience farming diverse agricultural crops and managing cattle operations on over 100,000 acres” and lists such brands as Sunkist, Kraft, Maui Cattle Co. and MauiGrown Coffee as among its partners and clients. It appears to be affiliated with Trinitas Partners, a private equity company at the same address.

The Public Sector Pension Investment Board is one of Canada’s largest pension fund investment managers. The venture registered Mahi Pono LLC with Hawaii’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs on Dec. 6; Mahi Pono LLC and Mahi Pono Holdings LLC were also registered with the state of Delaware on Nov. 28. Pomona Farming LLC registered as a Delaware company on Feb. 28, 2017.

“In Mahi Pono, we have found a unique partner with proven farming expertise, established marketing channels, strong financial resources, and a long-term perspective,” Benjamin said. “Most importantly, they share our vision of seeing farming flourish across Central Maui for generations to come. This could be one of the most important advances for agriculture in Hawaii in many decades.”

Gov. David Ige and Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa each said the deal is important for maintaining Maui’s agricultural industry and for creating diversified food production.

“As a farmer myself, I understand the challenges of the business,” Arakawa said in a statement. “Alexander & Baldwin has found the right partner in Mahi Pono to continue our island’s long legacy of farming, while providing new jobs and economic activity for our Maui residents.”

Haina sawmill project is pau

A judge has ruled in favor of a lender in a foreclosure suit on a former Pacific Northwest logger who attempted to turn the former Haina sugar mill in Honokaa into a sawmill.

Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara entered judgment Dec. 8 against Haina Properties LLC and Robert J. Marr, known as “Barefoot Bob.” The ruling clears the way for a liquidation sale of the mill property.

Haina Mill Mortgage Lender LLC, a Delaware limited liability -company, filed the foreclosure suit in June 2009, claiming that Haina Properties and Marr — manager of Haina Properties and owner of the 49-acre mill property — defaulted on a $4.785 million loan taken out Sept. 27, 2007, plus an additional $379,000 borrowed May 2, 2008.

All told, Marr owes almost $6.2 million to Haina Mill Mortgage Lender, counting principal, interest, fees, taxes and expenses.

Also named as defendants in the suit were Kamehameha Schools and Hamakua Land Partnership LLP as owner and lessee, respectively, of Standard Oil Road, the access road to the mill. In addition, the county was named for property tax purposes.

Marr bought the 49-acre mill property for $3.3 million in October 2007. He told area residents that the mill — which closed as a sugar mill in 1994 — would provide 110 jobs paying $12 to $25 an hour, and would run in an environmentally-responsible manner.

Secrecy surrounds ranch’s sale of 3,509 acres to biofuel pioneer

Michael Saalfeld, a German industrialist and biofuel pioneer, has purchased the North Kohala acreage Parker Ranch quietly sold in August, according to government records.

One of Saalfeld’s many companies, Kukuipahu Makai, paid $49.3 million for 35 parcels comprising 3,509 acres, according to Hawaii County tax records.

The state’s business registry lists Saalfeld and his wife, Jeannette, as the company’s only members.

Located on both sides of Akoni Pule Highway, the contiguous parcels extend from Mahukona Beach Park north nearly to Puakea Bay Ranch. They range in size from less than an acre to a 1,681-acre parcel.

Tremendous secrecy has surrounded both the sale and Saalfeld, who owns other large tracts of land and Big Island companies.

Rather than offering its property on the open market, Parker Ranch in August 2009 sent a “confidential information memorandum” to a small group of prospective buyers. Each recipient “will be required to sign a confidentiality agreement,” according to the document from then-CEO William “Bill” Maris. He was let go last month after less than a year in that position.

In August, Parker Ranch issued a one-page letter to employees, retirees and ohana confirming the sale of roughly 3 percent of its 128,000-acre holdings.

Buying Farm Land on Kauai

Buying Farm Land on Kauai | Hawaii Life

How many of us haven’t at some time entertained the idea (except those who have already done so!) of running off to Kauai, buying a few acres, and “living off the land”. A potent fantasy indeed, and for the past several years, one realized only by those with considerably deep pockets – vacant agricultural land on Kauai has recently ranged from $100,000 to well over $300,000 per acre (depending on location, views, caliber of neighborhood, etc…); land with a house already on it, obviously, even more.

The recent economic travails, however, are certainly doing their part to bring farming on Kauai back from the realm of fantasy into something verging on do-able for a lot more of us. And as well, these travails are providing motivation – more and more of us just want to chuck everything and revert to a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle.

Acreage on the Big Island has always been more affordable – for one thing, there’s a whole lot more of it; for another, it comes with active lava zones, limited infrastructure, long travel distances, etc… Kauai is like a precious green jewel-box in comparison – much smaller, more accessible, more groomed. The soil is older, the distances smaller, the beaches closer. And it has been much, much more expensive.