News

Alice Rogoff crashes plane

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Alaska Dispatch News publisher Alice Rogoff’s Cessna 206 in the water at Halibut Cove/unnamed source

Big Fourth of July holiday excitement came early to the tiny community of Halibut Cove on the tip of Alaska Kenai Peninsula when Alice Rogoff – the owner of Alaska’s largest newspaper, the wife of one of the country’s richest men and a float-rated pilot – Saturday smashed her plane in the harbor.

Multiple sources say Rogoff was at the controls of one of her two Cessna 206 aircraft when it clipped an eagle-nest tree and then smacked down on the water. The float-equipped, single-engine plane landed hard enough to cause damage that led to its sinking, but there were no reports of injuries.

Rogoff often has a professional pilot in the seat of the plane while she takes the copilot seat, but on this occasion she apparently ferried herself to the Cove either for the wedding of former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell or the 91st birthday of revered former state Sen. Clem Tillion or both.

Both events were underway in the Kachemak Bay hideaway on the weekend.

Treadwell is now head of  PT Capital, an Alaska-based private equity firm started by Rogoff. Rogoff’s husband, billionaire David Rubenstein, is famous as one of the founders of The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm which manages $178 billion in global assets including part of the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Rubenstein was not with Rogoff when the plane crashed.

The Rogoff-Rubensteins live almost entirely separate lives. His home is on the East Coast. She lives in a mansion along  upscale Campbell Lake in Anchorage where she keeps her airplane tied to a dock in the front yard. She proudly showed it off to President Barack Obama when he showed up for a private dinner there late last summer.

A relative newcomer to the 49th state, Rogoff formed a strong bond with Tillion in an effort to raise her Alaska cred. Part of her motivation for becoming a “Bush pilot” appeared likewise tied to image. The plane played a big role in a profile of Rogoff that appeared in her once-hometown newspaper – “The Washington Post” – almost exactly a year ago.

“Since her first visit to Alaska in 2001, the intensely private businesswoman and philanthropist has spent more and more time here, starting an arts foundation, buying a house, earning a pilot’s license to more easily traverse the immense state, purchasing a Web site, establishing an organization to address Arctic Circle issues, then buying the former Anchorage Daily News,” wrote reporter Julia Duin.

The arts foundation, which was primarily funded with grants from the state of Alaska, has since folded. But Rogoff has taken wing in the north, becoming a Kitchen-Cabinet advisor to Alaska Gov. Bill Walker and something of an Alaska celebrity as publisher of what is now the Alaska Dispatch News and as an Iditarod pilot.

— Update: The Anchorage Press has a photo of the plane being airlifted out of Halibut Cove by helicopter. The press says it’s headed for Anchorage, but the plane is at this time reported to be parked behind a berm at a far corner of the Homer airport.

With Rogoff in Nome at the end of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Duin wrote that “Rogoff had spent nine days piloting her single-engine Cessna 206 from village to village as her reporters covered 70-plus mushers crossing the state.”

On that occasion, she’d also had a professional pilot alongside her in the cockpit. She was reportedly without that assistance when the plane crashed Saturday evening. It is unknown whether anyone else was in the aircraft at the time.

Details remain very sketchy, but multiple witnesses say the plane hit a tree on approach to the Cove. One witness provided this description:

Right about 6 pm, as we were starting dinner, we heard a plane entirely too close to our house and looked out the window. The plane was coming straight for our dining room table.

“I’m told Alice was landing, but I didn’t see that part. She bounced hard on the water (on her first try) and back into the air. From what we saw, she couldn’t get the altitude at that point to clear our house and turned so sharply the plane’s wings were nearly perpendicular to the water. We could see the top of the plane and both wings as it disappeared from our sight after the pop.

“The pop sound must have been when she clipped the eagle tree.”

The witness was of the opinion Rogoff was trying to avoid crashing into the house and was extremely thankful for that.

Halibut Cove is a small, tight-knit community and no one contacted there Monday wanted their name used for fear of causing community conflicts, but the stories they told were all similar.

Rogoff was reported to have been able to walk away from the crash and was apparently planning to stay in the Cove for the Fourth of July. There were reports several feet of the eagle tree was clipped off by her plane. It is illegal to damage an eagle tree, but the eagles haven’t been nesting in this one for a while and Rogoff has connections that should be able to keep her out of any trouble for that.

This is not Rogoff’s first airplane accident. Earlier this summer, she clipped a horse barge in the Cove with the prop of her playing while taxiing.  A professional pilot had to get special permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to ferry the damaged plane back to Anchorage for repairs.

Rogoff had another incident at Merrill Field in Anchorage where she kept her 206 when AlaskaDisaptch.com operated out of a hangar there. In the incident, a tow-bar used to pull the airplane out of its hanger was left attached to the front wheel. It bounced up and damaged the propellor of the plane on takeoff, but no one was injured.

Dispatch.com was a feisty internet start-up that co-founders Tony Hopfinger and Amanda Coyne grew big enough to cause concern for the already struggling Anchorage Daily News owned by the California-based McClatchy Company.

Rogoff subsequently opened negotiations with McClatchy for the purchase of the Daily News and bought the state’s largest newspaper and website – ADN.com. She renamed the Dispatch the Alaska Dispatch News in order to retain the ADN.com acronym.

She is now locked in a lawsuit with Hopfinger, who says that he sold her interest in Alaska Dispatch to Rogoff for approximately $1 million just before the ADN purchase, but got paid only $100,000. He has a signed and dated cocktail napkin from Rogoff, who bought into the original Dispatch with a cocktail-napkin contract, saying she will pay him $100,000 per year for 10 years.

But he says he only got the first installment before Rogoff begged off on the agreement, saying she didn’t have any money and that he was to blame for talking her into the buying the newspaper.

People privy to the discussions about that purchase say Hopfinger and others surrounding Rogoff told her not to close a deal to spend $34 million for a newspaper which had shrunk from a circulation approaching 100,000 to less than 30,000 but she went ahead anyway.

She later sued McClatchy arguing the company had taken advantage of her, but then dropped the suit.

As Bush pilot, moose-hunter, litigant and newspaper owner, Rogoff appears to have been trying to make her mark in the 49th state as a daring Alaska adventurer. The latest incident might only add to the image given that there is an old saying in the 49th state that “any landing you can walk away from is not a crash.”

This is a developing story. Check back for more details.

(Disclosure: The author of this story has worked for both the Anchorage Daily News and AlaskaDisaptch.com and was once a personal friend of Rogoff. But they have not talked since shortly after he discovered a state official appeared to be illegally obtaining Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends. Rogoff’s newspaper refused to pursue that story. The reasons why have never been made clear, but State Board of Fisheries member Roland Maw was a friend of the governor, a regular visitor to Rogoff’s home. Maw was eventually charged with multiple felonies and is scheduled for trial in the fall.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 replies »

  1. Would love to read an article by you, Craig, about Rogoff–from your insider’s perspective. Think Alaska needs to know more about her ‘wild and crazy ideas.” You seem like the perfect person to do it.

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  2. Yeah, claiming to know that Rogoff’s friendship with Tillion is an “effort to increase her Alaska cred.” You call yourself a journalist? How would you know such a thing with certainty, other than your opinions must be certainty. I stopped reading there. My grinding-ax alert went to red.

    Liked by 1 person

    • good observation hugh, but you should have read to the end to find out. there’s a difference between “opinions” and “observations”. if i walk out on my deck at this moment, and observe it’s foggy and raining, that is not an opinion.

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  3. If Alice were male, 90% of the criticisms aired about her would have never seen the light of day. How many smug commenters can pilot a plane themselves? And you know, it’s just smart to hire a pro pilot to help you while you learn. There are lot of other clown pilots in Alaska that are way more deserving of criticism. Alice is a powerful, rich woman and people just. cannot. stand. it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • are you sure Tyler? if she were a rich man, my gut feeling is the criticism might be a whole lot greater. and if she were a rich man who owned the state’s largest media enterprise…? were you here when Bob Atwood owned the Anchorage Times and it was the major media power in Alaska? one can only guess the criticism that would have been dumped on him if the internet had existed then. but there are a lot of clown pilots in this state. you’re right about that.

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    • Tyler, I wholeheartedly agree with your observation. I know if a rich man crashed his plane it would make news (or any person, really), but this article was more than a report of a plane crash. It felt like a personal attack on Rogoff, and frankly on women who are trying to make it in a man’s world. I know neither Medred nor Rogoff, but I got the distinct impression that Medred wants his readers to dislike Alice Rogoff. To me, the narrative reads like ‘rich city-chick tries (and fails) to fit in with the boys in Alaska – now get the tar and feathers.’

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      • and which part seemed to you like a personal attack, Sverre? she is a rich woman. she is a power broker. she wants very much to be considered an “Alaskan,” whatever that is. (i was with her in several focus groups trying to figure out what that is.) the airplane, which has a certain mystique in Alaska, is all wrapped up in that. Ms. Rogoff’s story, her plane crash, none of it is about gender. if anything she got a pass on a lot of things because of gender and because, i admit, i admire women who pull themselves up from little in a man’s world. call me biased, but getting ahead as a woman in our society ain’t easy though it helps if you have a lot of money. that said, you’d have a better argument here if you were talking about Amanda Coyne, one of the founders of Alaska Dispatch.com. but her story hasn’t really been told. personally, i like Ms. Rogoff. she’s an entertaining person with whom to spend time. she’s got some wild and crazy ideas. but facts is facts.

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    • actually, her old nickname was pretty good: Yosemite Sam. and let’s all be glad she didn’t get hurt so everyone can joke about it. she’s lucky. it could have been bad. i hope she goes back to taking second seat.

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