Media

Find the money

IMG_20161020_162128970 (9)

The planned new printing plant for the Alaska Dispatch News before its abandonment/Craig Medred photo

 

The Alaska Dispatch News/ADN.com – once the state’s dominant news source – might be bankrupt and gone, but the story of the rise and fall of millionaire news baroness Alice Rogoff appears far from over.

A federal Bankruptcy Court judge last week ordered a probe deep into the finances of the defunct news operation that brought Rogoff enough prestige to lure former President Barack Obama to her home for dinner during his 2015 global warming tour of Alaska.

Powerful connections do not appear to have been enough to keep the bankruptcy court at bay. Chief Judge Frederick P. Corbit for the Eastern District of Washington state on Dec. 22 signed off on a request from court trustee Nacole Jipping for what is called a “Rule 2004 Examination.”

Both attorney Cabot Christianson, a good friend of Rogoff’s hired to represent the interests of the Dispatch News LLC or the Alaska Publishing LLC or both, and a personal attorney hired to represent Rogoff opposed the request to no avail.

In his motion, Corbit noted their arguments had been heard and then ordered the Dispatch News to produce a three-page list of documents (see below), including in-house ADN emails, bank statements and “all invoices from Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot to Alaska Dispatch, including time records, from 5/14/14 to present.”

Attorney Bill Bittner, another old friend of Rogoff’s, is a principal in the Birch Horton law firm. He has been intimately involved in Rogoff’s Alaska business dealings almost since her arrival in the state. He was the attorney negotiating a buyout of the Dispatch News interest of Tony Hopfinger before the deal high-centered over concerns that Northrim Bank, Rogoff’s biggest creditor, might object to a failing newspaper engaging in a $1 million settlement with the co-founder of the online news website AlaskaDispatch.com.

The negotiations ended with a now infamous contract Rogoff drew up on a bar napkin and then signed. The napkin is at the heart of a bitter lawsuit. Rogoff, a multimillionaire, wrote out a personal pledge to pay Hopfinger $100,000 per year for 10 years as compensation for his efforts in building Dispatch into a visible presence on the Alaska news scene and subsequently helping Rogoff achieve her dream of buying the old Anchorage Daily News/ADN.com from The McClatchy Company of California for a staggering $33 million.

Northrim went $13 million deep into that purchase. The bank, along with Birch Horton, now finds itself entangled in the ongoing bankruptcy investigation.

Who bought what

Asked about the Northrim loan at a Sept. 7 hearing in Anchorage, Rogoff said, “none of that money was used for operation of the newspaper. And, in fact, the $13 million was reduced with pay downs from me personally to what is today $10 million. I viewed that simply as an acquisition loan. Had nothing to do with operations. There was no working capital operation.”

Acquisition loans are usually short-term loans made to a company to purchase another company’s assets. Those assets can sometimes then be used as collateral to arrange new financing to help pay off the acquisition loan over the long-term and provide capital for operations.

In the case of the Dispatch News, however, Rogoff immediately sold off the main asset she bought from the Anchorage Daily News, a massive building on Northway Drive that housed the News’ office and, more importantly, its printing plant.

GCI, an Anchorage cable and telecom company, bought the building for $14.5 million.

Subsequent to that sale, Northrim’s personal loan to Rogoff somehow became a $10 million loan to the Dispatch News, a company then lacking much in the way of assets. The loan has been much discussed in bankrupt hearings, but the details remain sketchy.

The loan, a bankruptcy trustee observed at the September hearing, “says personal agreement. When was this entered into?”

Rogoff said it happened at the time of the Daily News purchase. She then went on to say she, and not the Dispatch News, was the one responsible to the bank for repaying the note.

This exchange followed:

Q: “Ms. Rogoff, you indicated that you personally borrowed about $13 million from Northrim Bank. It was contributed as capital to AK Publishing. Did ADN receive that money directly at all or did it all go through AK Publishing?”

Rogoff: “That’s a good question. As far as I know, it all went through AK Publishing.”

AK Publishing and Alaska Dispatch are tangled together in the bankruptcy court records. Though supposedly separate entities, they appear to have been used by Rogoff as part of one company.

“AK Publishing, I believe, is the holding company that operates Alaska Dispatch through ADN,” Rogoff said at one point in the hearings.

“I think we’re taking the position that it’s the ADN accounts that are estate property, and the Alaska Publishing are not estate property, but that there’s some money that flows through Alaska Publishing accounts that is ADN money..,” Christianson said later.

The distinction is important because if any AK Publishing money is “estate property,” the more than 150 creditors to whom Rogoff owes about $2 million would have the right to go after it. And Christianson hinted in court that there might be or was money there somewhere.

“Has the debtor made payments to other creditors whose claims are guaranteed by Ms. Rogoff in her personal capacity,” trustee Kathryn Perkins asked.

“…The answer is no, not out of the ADN accounts,” Christianson said.

“Out of the AK Publishing account?”

“Yes,” he said.

AK Dispatch Publishing News

If the AK Publishing account and the ADN account are judged to be basically the same account, some of the money Rogoff used to pay back those creditors could be pulled back, and it is possible Rogoff could be held responsible for using company money to pay personal debts, including possibly some of that Northrim debt.

Northrim restructured its loan only about five months before ADN filed for bankruptcy,  according to court testimony.

“What benefit did the debtor (ADN) receive from the restructuring?” Rogoff was asked at the September hearing.

“I can’t say there was any,” she said.

An attorney for Northrim later tried to rollback that testimony by getting Rogoff to testify the money was part of what enabled her to keep subsidizing the company right up until she decided to give up on the publishing business, but whether that will make a difference to the court is an unknown.

Rogoff claims to have personally lost $16.6 million in three years in the newspaper business, but then she never tried to avoid losses.

When Mark Miller, an electrical contractor to whom ADN owes about $500,000, asked Rogoff if she knew her company was losing $125,000 a week when it hired him to help ready a new building for a new printing press, she answered, “I couldn’t tell you. I never thought about it that way.”

She went on to admit she knew the company’s losses were “substantial, yes, but it was cyclical and up and down and to me very much in the ordinary course of business.”

Rogoff’s ordinary course of business started off with a $4.5 million loss in her first year of ADN ownership. It increased to about $8.1 million the next year and just kept going up.

By the time Northrim restructured its loan in March of this year, Rogoff had already stopped paying some bills because of cash flow problems. She took the newspaper into bankruptcy only five months later.

It was bailed out in September by the Binkley Company formed by members of an old, Fairbanks family of the same name. They’ve since gone back to the future to retread the news operation as the Anchorage Daily News/ADN.com. They are continuing efforts to try to make the newspaper into a financial success.

Rogoff, meanwhile, has spun off an Arctic news website something in the style of AlaskaDispatch.com, her first Alaska publishing adventure; spent some time sailing and traveling; divorced husband David Rubenstein, one of the richest men in the world; and returned to her home along Anchorage’s Campbell Lake, reportedly with a plan to focus her wealth and energy from here on out to seeing to the re-election of old friend Gov. Bill Walker.

While she is doing that, Seattle attorney Christine Tobin-Presser will be digging through a small mountain of documents looking for ADN assets creditors might attach. And Rogoff creditors have received, or should be receiving, letters warning them to make sure to file a “proof of claim to recovery of assets” in case any money is found.

blurb

Here is the complete list of what the Dispatch has been “directed to produce and/or make available to the Trustee…on or before January 15, 2018:

“(1) Copies of all financial statements, internally and/or externally prepared,
for Alaska Dispatch News, LLC, formerly known as Alaska Daily News, LLC
(“Alaska Dispatch” or “Debtor”)) from the date of its acquisition by AK
Publishing, LLC (“AK Publishing”) through August 2017.

“(2) Copies of the federal tax returns of the debtor for 2014 through 2016.

“(3) Copies of all documents related to the sale of Alaska Dispatch’s real
property to GCI NADC, LLC in or around May 2015 (the “GCI Sale”)
including, but not limited to:

(a) Any communications or correspondence between or among the
Debtor, including any employee, principal or agent thereof, and any
third party including but not limited to (1) any affiliate or insider
(as that term is defined in the Bankruptcy Code); (2) GCI, including
any agent or representative thereof; and/or (3) the Debtor’s legal
counsel, relating to the GCI Sale;

b) Any internal communications or correspondence of the Debtor
relating to the GCI Sale;

(c) Copies of all valuations or appraisals (including drafts) prepared,
obtained or utilized in connection with the GCI Sale; and

(d) Copies of documents relating to the disposition, transfer, or use
of the proceeds of the GCI Sale.

(4) Copies of all documents relating in any way to the loan from Northrim Bank
to Alice Rogoff (“Rogoff”) in the approximate amount of $13,000,000 used in
connection with the purchase of the stock of Alaska Dispatch (the “Northrim
Loan”) including, but not limited to:

(a) All loan documents;

(b) All correspondence or communications between Alaska Dispatch,
including any employee, principal or agent thereof, and any third
party, including Alaska Dispatch’s legal counsel, relating in any
manner to the Northrim Loan; and

(c) All internal correspondences or communications of the Debtor
relating to the Northrim Loan.

(5) Copies of all documents relating in any way to the guaranty provided by
Alaska Dispatch to Northrim Bank (the “Northrim Loan Guaranty”) with
respect to the Northrim Loan, including but not limited to:

(a) All guaranty documents;

(b) All correspondence and other communications by the Debtor,
including any employee, principal or agent thereof, and any third
party, including Alaska Dispatch’s legal counsel, regarding any direct
or indirect payment(s) made by Alaska Dispatch to Northrim Bank with
respect to the Northrim Loan Guaranty; and

(c) All internal correspondence and other communications by the Debtor
regarding any direct or indirect payment(s) made by Alaska Dispatch to
Northrim Bank with respect to the Northrim Loan Guaranty.

(6) Copies of all book entries or financial statements documenting any direct
or indirect payments provided by Alaska Dispatch in connection with the
Northrim Loan Guaranty.

(7) Copies of all documents relating to Alaska Dispatch’s grant of a security
interest in personal property to Northrim Bank, including but not limited
to:

(a) All security documents; and

(b) All correspondence and communications including but not limited to
communications between Alaska Dispatch, including any employee,
principal or agent thereof, and any third party, including its legal
counsel, and all internal correspondence and communications.

(8) Copies of bank statements for all Alaska Dispatch bank accounts identified
in the Debtor’s Bankruptcy Schedule B (including those accounts in the name
of AK Publishing, LLC) from May 2014 to August 2017, including copies of
the fronts and backs of all checks.

(9) Copies of all documents relating to any loan made by Alice Rogoff to Alaska
Dispatch (each, a “Rogoff Loan”), including but not limited to:

(a) All loan documents; and

(b) All correspondence and communications including but not limited to
communications between Alaska Dispatch, including any employee,
principal or agent thereof, and any third party, including its
legal counsel, and all internal correspondence and communications, with
respect to any Rogoff Loan.

(10) All invoices from Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot to Alaska Dispatch,
including time records, from 5/14/14 to present.”

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18 replies »

    • You know…if you fly too close to the sun, the wax may melt holding your wings together.
      The GOP will split the primary 3 ways & then by the time the November vote arrives, Mallot & Walker will keep their posts with the help of “Banksters United”.

      Like

  1. Don’t forget Patriots. The first filing deadline is June 1, 2018. I encourage everyone to pay the $100 filing fee just to see how it works.

    Like

  2. Due to his recent divorce, Alice’s husband slipped from #132 richest person in the world to #146. Don’t count him out in the final standing though! Alice is ranked #11,417 currently and struggling to maintain her former standing. Alice seems to be a classic co-dependent – unable to make her own decisions for her own self interest.Without a father figure to guide her around she becomes a cannonball rolling around loosely on the deck.

    Like

  3. From this point on – only the attorneys win. If Alice was smart she would do a face-saving settlement with her creditors. Far far cheaper. Bonus she regains some respectability.

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  4. I’m guessing part of the transfer of ADN to the Binkleys included an undocumented agreement that all email servers would be scrubbed clean. A page from the Hillary playbook.

    Will be interesting to see if the 2 million $ owed to creditors will be exceeded by the total money Rogof spends to help Walker during the next election.

    Like

  5. Honestly Craig, there are much more important things happening up here right now…like the 20 year old shot and killed by police in Fairbanks over Christmas eve…What the hell happened there? This year over 963 people will have been shot to death in America by police forces and many of them were unarmed or already in police custody like the man in Steward this year.
    So, Rogoff is crooked..
    Well, that has been well established through your writings.
    Do not expect this to change after court “procedings” have ended.
    As for police brutality in America, this situation is far from mitigated.

    Like

    • If it’s not know “what happened there”? in the Fairbanks police shooting, why are you attributing it to police brutality before facts are released? While there might be many who were killed while unarmed or in custody, MOST are armed and/or threatening and are/have/plan to commit a violent crime, including murder. They are shot because they shoot at the police, won’t drop their weapon, advance on the police or community with a weapon or an intent to injure, etc. The police do need more training to help diffuse situations more easily, but there are evil people all over the world who will stop at nothing to bring death, violence and misery to everyone else.

      Like

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