With Alice Rogoff’s dream of an Alaska media empire dead and a federal Bankruptcy Court trustee sniffing her back trail to find the hole down which tens of millions of dollars disappeared at the Alaska Dispatch News, the woman who some former employees once considered the self-anointed heir to the title of the Queen of the Arctic is rebooting as Alaska Online Publisher 3.0 (AOP 3.0).
A “Dear Reader” letter started appearing in the email in boxes of people across the north this week announcing the rebranding of “Arctic Now” as “Arctic Today.” Arctic Now was a website Rogoff spirited out of the ADN as she was taking the company into bankruptcy.
Arctic Today is an all new “platform,” sort of.
“We are pleased to bring you this new, expanded platform for our Arctic coverage. You’ve known us as Arctic Now, a circumpolar news partnership,” said the pitch to prospective subscribers.
“Now we’re adding more news, opinions, and features from around the circumpolar region — and we’re renaming ourselves “ArcticToday.”
The appeal hit all the hot-button Arctic news topics: climate change, polar shipping, indigenous rights, food security, economic development and infrastructure construction.
It had a ring of the journalistic enthusiasm of AlaskaDispatch.com, the northern news adventure to which Rogoff first attached herself after arriving in the 49th state and a touch of Rogoff’s we’re-all-in-this-together spirit.
“…Share our deep interest and affection for our Earth’s High North, a place of intrigue and interest for centuries that all of us are together experiencing through the new lens of rapid — and alarming — climate change,” it said.
“But just as importantly, as Arctic residents, we know — and want to share with the rest of our world to the south — that there are also opportunities from this rapid change. While the perils of rapid sea ice melt and warming are obvious, the upside of this evolution is more subtle. And exciting to contemplate.
“In short, we aim to cover it all, and more — with travel features, lifestyle content, and all the texture of a northern life that is foreign to most of the world to the south.
“We look forward to learning more about all of this along with you.
“Please do stay in touch.
“Alice Rogoff, Publisher”
Back in the past
Suspected of being newly rich thanks to a divorce from multimillionaire husband David Rubenstein, Rogoff appears to have put her past failures – Alaska House in New York City, the Alaska Native Arts Foundation born in Washington, D.C. before moving north with Rogoff and entering into a private-public partnership that appears to have burned through about $6 million in state money, and finally the biggest loser – the Alaska Dispatch News.
In between, there was the Tony Hopfinger-Amanda Coyne founded, Rogoff-financed AlaskaDispatch.com, which never made money, but helped Rogoff buy enough journalistic respectability and put enough fear of the future into The McClatchy Company of California to convince it to sell the faltering Anchorage Daily News.
Rogoff paid $34 million for a newspaper with a profit margin on a long, downhill slide and a steadily shrinking subscription base. But the newspaper was still profitable when she took over in the summer of 2014 and changed the named from the Anchorage Daily News/ADN.com to the Alaska Dispatch News/ADN.com.
Rogoff that year turned a small profit at the ADN. It was the financial high-water mark of her empire. The next year, the ADN lost almost $6 million, but Rogoff was publicly riding high. She late that summer hosted President Barack Obama at her Campbell Lake home when he stopped in Anchorage on his Alaska global warming tour.
Still by then, Rogoff was caught in an avalanche of bad business. Though she clung to a vision of cornering the market on Alaska news and selling it to America for a profit, an old Hopfinger idea, the speed at which the internet was making a mess of everything had changed the game.
Many people were more interested in fake news than real news, and after years of Alaska pol-ebrity Sarah Palin dominating the national news cycle, national interest in Alaska was starting to fade. Rogoff’s only realistic option was to cut her operation to the bone in order to survive, but she couldn’t bring herself to do that because layoffs would have looked bad.
So she hung on until everything caved in, declared bankrupty; transferred the newspaper to the Fairbanks based Binkley Company for $1 million, the amount the Binkley family loaned her to keep the operation from going underwater in September; and left about 180 mostly small creditors out in the cold to the tune of close to $2 million.
Some of those creditors are still after Rogoff and/or Northrim Bank, which personally loaned Rogoff about $13 million but then accepted payments from the Alaska Dispatch News to service her debt. Rogoff’s use of company money to pay personal debts raises issues.
Rogoff looks as if she will be kept busy paying lawyers for a while.
Both Hopfinger, who she promised $1 million for his remaining interest in the company he built; GCI Inc., who says Rogoff reneged on about $1.4 million in rent and electric bills while housing her press operation in the GCI Building on Northway Drive; and Arctic Partners, a company that leased her a building in which a new press was supposed to be installed are in state court accusing Rogoff as using the Dispatch News, a limited liability company, and/or Alaska Dispatch Publishing, a limited liability company, and/or the Moon and the Stars, a limited liability company, as legal fronts to protect Alice Rogoff from personal responsiblity for her actions.
Like the Tom Brady of publishing, however, Rogoff has shown a unique ability to forget her mistakes and move on to the next play. It took her a couple months to recover from the ADN bankruptcy, but by early winter she was back in action.
Once again, she was circling the globe to direct world leaders on Arctic policy.
In November, she was at Harvard to judge student ideas for saving the Arctic. The judges picked “Gabrielle Scrimshaw, who pitched an investment fund for ventures owned by indigenous people, primarily in the booming tourism industry in northern Canada,” the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs reported.
Scrimshaw’s idea sounded a little like Rogoff’s Native Arts Foundation to help indigenous people make an impact in the art market.
Just days ago, Rogoff was at the University College London to lecture on “The US and Its Emerging Arctic Interest.”
Her knowledge of Arctic matters appeared to be based heavily on her experience as “the former publisher and owner of Alaska Dispatch News….In 2002, she launched the Alaska Native Arts Foundation. In 2008, Ms Rogoff founded the Alaska House NY, a non-profit ‘virtual embassy’ to promote understanding of the economic issues and opportunities facing the state.”
On paper, Rogoff presents well.
“In 2012, Ms Rogoff co-founded the international forum ‘Arctic Circle’ together with former President Olafur Grimsson of Iceland. Alice sits on the Advisory Board of Polar Research and Policy Initiative and chairs the Advisory Council of the Polar Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson Center of the Smithsonian. Most recently, Alice has been an outside adviser to the Arctic Initiative just launched at Harvard University’s JFK School.
“From 1985 to 1997, Ms Rogoff was Chief Financial Officer of US News and World Report. Prior to that, she was Managing Director of G William Miller and Co., a Washington DC investment management firm. She also worked at The Washington Post Company as Assistant to Publisher Donald Graham and created the “National Weekly Edition” of The Washington Post. From 1978 to 1980, Ms Rogoff served in the Administration of President Jimmy Carter as Special Assistant to the Director of the US Office of Management and Budget.”
Rogoff has spent a good part of her life as a somebody, and despite the little bankrupty issue in Alaska, she appears back to being a somebody, and this week came the big Arctic Today rollout.