An open letter

alice 3

Alice Rogoff/Newseum photo



Dear Alice Rogoff, old friend:

Finally it is over. You are free of David Rubenstein at last. It is sad when relationships end even when it is better that way. Hopefully over time, the memories of when you and David were young and in love will overpower the memories of these later years when all you wanted to do was get far away from the father of your children.

And the good news is that you are now independently wealthy.

The newspapers have offered little hint as to how wealthy. A rich, powerful and well-connected man, David has done a good job of keeping that speculation out of the public arena. Not even the PEU Report, which tends to spend a lot of time picking on his business, The Carlyle Group, was willing to hazard a guess.

But some in the financial community seem to think the settlement was in the three-figure million category, possibly as low as $100 million, maybe as high as $500 million.

I know you thought you were owed half of the $3 billion, but a few hundred million wouldn’t be bad.

More power to you.

Behind every successful man, it has been said, there is a good woman, and you were a good woman. When first we met in Alaska, I remember thinking you were the most well-meaning human I’d ever encountered, well-meaning almost to the point of foolish.

My how things changed.

One can’t help but wonder if there weren’t some parallels here with your life with David in how what starts out so good and filled with happiness can turn so bad and filled with darkness.

So much went so wrong, but you have been given a chance to set things right.

Money can’t buy anyone happiness, but it can sometimes make people happier. When you took the Alaska Dispatch News/ADN into bankruptcy and left people,  a lot of them Alaskans of limited means, holding $2 million debt on which they couldn’t collect, you caused a good deal of unhappiness.

You have the money now to settle those debts and make people happy. This is the sort of thing I trust that your heart will tell you to do.

Despite our difficult parting – most newspaper reporters who catch state officials committing acts which result in their being charges with felonies win accolades, not spiked stories and dismissal – I have no doubt as to your good intentions. I remember how full of good intent you were when you first offered up the funding to make a viable journalistic reality.

I remember those discussions in the hangar at Merrill Field about the good journalism could do Alaska by providing Alaskans facts around which to hold sensible discussions. I remember when doing the right thing mattered to you as much as it mattered to everyone else at Dispatch.

What happened after you spent an unGodly $34 million to buy the Anchorage Daily News, I don’t know. I never understood the bifurcation of the newly created Alaska Dispatch News into a “news” section where there were supposedly only facts and a “commentary” section where “facts” were defined as whatever someone believed them to be.

But then again, I did understand.

Being the publisher of a small-town, American newspaper might be the hardest job in the country, and Alaska is really just one oversized small town. Everyone thinks they know how to run the newspaper better than the person running it. Everyone can find something wrong with the newspaper every day.

It’s hard to ignore the constant criticism. It’s easy to start listening only to your friends when what you most need to do is listen to those who aren’t so friendly. It’s difficult to hold people to a debate centered on facts. It’s easy to tell your editorial-page editor to “just print it, and quit it asking so many questions.”

There were days at the ADN that it looked like dealing with that attitude was going to make poor Scott Woodham’s head explode. If only we’d known how much worse it could get….

I’ll be honest here. There are some from the old Dispatch days who think you played everyone; who think all you really wanted from the beginning was power; who think the whole exercise from your 2009 involvement with Dispatch through the 2014 purchase of the Anchorage Daily News/ADN to this year’s collapse of the Alaska Dispatch News/ADN was about obtaining a bully pulpit from which to try to direct Alaska’s future.

I’m not buying it. I give you credit for more smarts than that. Trying to direct Alaskans is harder than herding cats. If you’d wanted to truly influence the direction of Alaska, you would have bought yourself a bunch of politicians instead of a newspaper.

What was it the ADN lost in the space of three years? Twenty-six million dollars, not counting the initial investment? For what?

Yes, there are those who think you played a pivotal role in helping get Bill Walker elected, but it’s not like Walker has accomplished much. And not even Walker would buy your big idea of leveraging the Permanent Fund by borrowing against it, using the borrowed money to fund state services, and then hoping the Permanent Fund investment advisers (which just happen to include Carlyle) could keep the fund’s earnings well ahead of the interest due on the loan. 

If your goal was influence, a $26 million SuperPAC would have bought a lot more, and you never would have had to take it into bankruptcy and tarnish your own good name. It pains me to see the way most Alaskans think of you these days.

Alice Rogoff is synonymous with John Lindauer, the disgraced, one-time candidate for governor who fled Alaska after the debacle of 1998. He never returned. But then again his public-relations problems were worse than yours. He ended up in court for violating state campaign finance laws.

You are only in court for bad business decisions, but do you really want to be in court?

As you well know, there’s yet another hearing Friday at which Federal Bankruptcy Court Judge Gary Spraker, the old law partner of your bankruptcy attorney and friend Cabot Christiansen, is being asked to approve a probe into the finances of the Alaska Dispatch News LLC and the various other limited liability companies of yours associated with the Dispatch News business.

There’s no telling where that could lead. It’s pretty clear from what has already made it into the public record that you were mixing personal expenses with company expenses.

Do you really want an investigator digging around in all of that when you can stop it by settling up with people as the first step to restoring your good name in Alaska?

We all make mistakes in life. There’s nothing wrong with admitting to them and then doing the right thing. Pay those bills you can now afford to pay. Work out a deal with GCI to pay the back rent and utilities. Figure out how to settle with Tony Hopfinger, the man who stood faithfully by your side so long.

He and former wife Amanda Coyne were builders. You were a buyer.

They built Alaska Dispatch. They worked so hard at it that the work destroyed their relationship.

What they built brought you plenty of attention. It put you in position to buy the Daily News.

Then Tony sold you what he built. You closed the deal on a napkin. You know why. And then you refused to pay him the money you promised.

There were others you treated badly, friends thrown under the bus because they tried to tell you what you needed to do to fix the newspaper you bought at a time when newspapers were among the country’s worst investments.

You were ruthless then for all the wrong reasons. You were not the woman I first knew in Alaska. It would be nice to have that woman back.

In retrospect, I blame the stress of trying to run a newspaper bleeding millions of dollars a year while negotiating with one of the masters’ of the universe to end a long-troubled marriage.

Stress can make ogres out of the best of us. But the stress is over now. The newspaper is history. So, too, the marriage. It’s time to start over.

America is a land of second chances, and only more so Alaska. I am confident that you still care about the Arctic and the people who live there. I believe those talks we used to have back in the hangar reflected the real Alice Rogoff, and that the Alice of the Alaska Dispatch News was an aberration.

But whatever any of it was, it is now all history.

Ahead is the future. It is a future offering you the chance to do the best for yourself by doing the best for everyone.

Redeem your public image. Bring back the old Alice. Start over. The old Alice could still do good things for her adopted home.

Wishing you luck and the best for the Holidays,










8 replies »

  1. In consideration of Alice Rogoff’s behavior in Nome regarding native arts and crafts, Nome Port future, Alaska House Of New York City, Alaska Dispatch.Com and the ADN, how can anyone think that Alice would do anything else but duck and run. Craig Medred, you are being very generous to her in this article. I’m more trusting in Mr. Madoff and Mr. PONZI than Mrs. Alice Rogoff-Bernstein.

    • maybe, David, but as far as i can calculate, she’s pumped upwards of $50 million INTO the Alaska economy since her arrival here. the money might not have been spent wisely. her behavior as regards the ADN bankruptcy is unconscionable, but she’s no Madoff. there’s no evidence she took money from Alaskans in an effort to build her personal wealth. the evidence is she took a lot of money from David Rubenstein and largely pissed it away in AK, to be blunt.

      • No, David, she has not committed theft on the scale of Madoff but is she trustworthy with other people’s money? Nope, to be blunt.

  2. Great article. Time will tell us of Ms. Rogoff’s true character. If she uses a small percentage of her ex-hubby’s payout to fix the mess she made in Alaska, then that will show integrity and a good heart. If she doesn’t, which I bet will be the case, it will show Alaska her proclaimed love of this state was not genuine. It was merely a temporary and shallow infatuation with the little people of Alaska, until something better (like a boatload of money) came along. Time will tell.

  3. Very good advice for Alice! I will, however, wager a bottle of your favorite grape beverage that if read by her, your advice will be ignored. People like her do not get wealthy by being fair to others. You were very generous with your comments about her. Reasonable minds differ, however.

  4. Great commentary. Those of us in small business have to take responsibility for our mistakes. Those in big business should too!

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