James Campbell Estate

November, 2001

Many of his contemporaries scoffed at James Campbell’s then-outlandish notion that he could develop 41,000 acres of dry, barren land on Oahu’s leeward coast into a thriving entity. But a century and a quarter later, the former wasteland has proven not only to be a prosperous and sprawling community, but also serves as the Kingpin of The Estate of James Campbell’s real estate portfolio.

“Kapolei means a great deal to us. It is where we have put the majority of our effort and where the majority of our investment is,” says David H. McCoy, chief executive officer of Campbell Estate. But long before McCoy and the estate’s trustees (David Heenan, chairman; Clint Churchill; Dick Gushman and Ron Zlatoper) injected $170 million worth of investment into the Ewa plain, it was James Campbell’s pioneering efforts that breathed life into the otherwise uncultivable area.

In 1879 Campbell commissioned a California well-driller to tap water 240 feet below the ground, and his foresight in discovering the vast artesian water basin had an everlasting impact on Oahu’s course of development.

Today, Campbell Estate’s strategy in Hawaii revolves around improvements to Kapolei, and cautiously disposing of assets producing the lowest returns. “There might be a couple people who choose not to continue with the entity for whatever reason, so there will have to be a limited liquidation of some properties,” says Wendy Crabb, a beneficiary and treasurer for Kulia Ka Ohana, an organization setup to educate family members about the forthcoming termination of the trust in 2007.

Nearly 200 family members have a stake in the trust, and it has been no small feat trying to bring everyone up to par. “To take a $1.7 billion entity and carve it up and make the decisions that you’re going to make, I’d say the family’s pretty together,” says McCoy. “That doesn’t mean that everybody agrees with one another, because they don’t. But I would say that this family is more together than most, given the magnitude of what’s going on.”McCoy says at this point, it is highly unlikely that Kapolei will leave the hands of the beneficiaries: “Sure we could sell it today, but we think there’s a higher return that’s going to come in the future and we want to be there for that.” According to Quentin Kawananakoa, a beneficiary and president of Kulia Ka Ohana, ownership of the estate will probably continue on in some entity, most likely in the form of an LLC, and will continue to be run professionally. Family members of the estate plan to approach the courts with a specific plan in the latter part of 2002.


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Jacy L. Youn