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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 11, 2002

Most Campbell heirs want corporation to carry on 'estate'

By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer

Most of the heirs with an interest in the fortune that began with 'Ewa landholder James Campbell favor creating a new corporation to carry on "business as usual" when the Campbell Estate is dissolved five years from now, according to a report filed in state Probate Court.

An unspecified number of heirs, however, prefer a cash buyout of their interest in the trust, which has a current market value of $1.7 billion to $2 billion, most of it in vast real estate holdings, according to the report.

Another group appears to favor a combination of cash and stock in the corporation that will replace Campbell Estate, while members of a fourth group have indicated a desire to receive real estate equal in value to the amount they would receive if they opted for cash.

The various asset distribution alternatives are outlined in a status report submitted to Probate Court by the four Campbell Estate trustees Dec. 28. A hearing on the report is set for Feb 15.

The Campbell Estate, a Hawaii institution for decades, was founded in 1900 under the will of James Campbell, a Scottish carpenter who became one of the Islands' largest landowners.

Today the estate's assets make it Hawai'i's second-wealthiest private trust, with 70,700 acres on O'ahu, Maui and the Big Island.

Campbell's will mandated that his wealth be left for the benefit of his four surviving children — Abigail W. Kawananakoa, Alice K. Campbell, Muriel C.S. Amalu and Beatrice C. Wrigley — and that the trust terminate 20 years after the death of his last surviving offspring. Wrigley's death at age 91 on Jan. 21, 1987, set the date for dissolution of the estate at Jan. 20, 2007.

When dissolved, the estate's assets must be distributed among the living direct descendants, 23 as of mid-1999. The Hawaii Probate Court, which oversees the estate, must approve the distribution.

Dawn Suyenaga, general counsel for the Gentry Companies, whose subsidiaries have developed more than 5,000 homes on former Campbell Estate land, said Gentry has development agreements in place that call for continued acquisition of Campbell land through the end of 2005.

If the entity that replaces Campbell Estate after January 2007 continues on with a "business as usual" approach, then dissolution of the estate should have little impact on the Gentry Companies, Suyenaga said.

Maeda Timson, a Makakilo-KapoleiiHonokai Hale Neighborhood Board member and community activist, said she hopes whatever entity replaces Campbell Estate will be as good a corporate neighbor.

"We have gone to the Campbell Estate people time and time again for money, for the Boys and Girls Clubs of 'Ewa Beach and a lot of other things, and they are always right there for us," Timson said. "They do things with us instead of to us."

It would be a loss if the organization that replaces Campbell Estate plays a less active role in the community, Timson said. "The Campbell Estate people are all very professional, but they are very (homey) at the same time. Maybe it's because what's good for the community is good for them too."

Campbell came to Hawai'i aboard a whaling vessel in 1850 at the age of 24. Ten years later he helped establish the Pioneer Mill sugar company on Maui, which became the basis of a fortune that later included huge chunks of property on the Big Island and O'ahu.

The value of his holdings was enhanced in 1879 when he helped drill the state's first artesian well, which transformed his arid lands on the 'Ewa plains into flourishing fields of sugar cane.

Campbell High School in 'Ewa Beach and the Campbell Industrial Park in Kapolei are named for him.

At his death at age 74 in 1900, James Campbell's land was worth $3 million.

Since 1974 the estate has embarked on a diversification program that includes office, retail and industrial properties in 15 Mainland states. About 46 percent of its holdings is in Mainland investments. The estate also is developing the second city in Kapolei, headquarters for its employees.

The direct Campbell descendants include well-known figures such as Quentin Kawananakoa, former Republican senate candidate in 1998; and Abigail Kawananakoa, former president of the Friends of 'Iolani Palace.

Reach David Waite at dwaite@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8030.