Unbowed by her more than $30 million business failure and what the fallout from a high-profile bankruptcy might have done to her credibility, former ADN.com owner Alice Rogoff is back in business as a journalist.
The daughter of the late Mortimer Rogoff, who pioneered the technologies that led to the Global Positioning System (GPS) that enabled the oil tanker SS Manhattan to negotiate its way through the Northwest Passage in 1969, Alice has long dreamed of fulfilling her father’s dream of Arctic shipping.
Murkowski assured Alice that progress is being made on an Arctic port.
What Alaska really needs, Murkowski added, is a system of ports along the Bering Sea.
When Royal Dutch-Shell abandoned plans to develop oil in the Chukchi Sea three years ago, any real economic reason for Alaska Arctic port developments disappeared with its drilling rig. But Murkowski suggested a “national security” push might reignite interest.
“Look as what’s going on on the other side of the Bering Sea,” Murkowski said.”Russia is not sitting still, and then who is coming through? This is something we can’t take, we can’t take the attitude that we will get to this when it’s convenient for us…..They have moved beyond us.”
Alice has long been interested in her father’s Arctic vision. In a Mortimer biography Alice helped write, she refers to herself as the son he never had, and she has gone to great lengths to attract national and Alaska state leaders to the family cause of Arctic shipping.
“The climate is changing, the Arctic ice is melting much faster than expected, and the northern seas are increasingly busy. This is fact. Most experts now say we will have an ice-free north pole within the next five to 10 years,” she wrote in a column AlaskaDispatch.com in 2013.
An online news site started by Amanda Coyne and now ex-husband Tony Hopfinger, Dispatch was Alice’s first foray into Alaska journalism. She bought a controlling interest in 2009, and put Hopfinger in charge of building a news organization to challenge the then vastly dominant Anchorage Daily News.
(Editor’s note: The author of this story was a reporter at the Anchorage Daily News who took a buyout in 2009 and later volunteered to help Hopfinger and Coyne with their new enterprise. He eventually became a staff reporter there and regularly hung out with Hopfinger, Coyne and Alice.)
By the end of 2010, the Columbia Journalism Review was describing the Dispatch as a “regional reporting powerhouse.” The Dispatch News that year helped reveal troublesome flaws in the character of Joe Miller, who’d defeated the incumbent Murkowski in the Republican primary.
Four years later, Alice convinced The McClatchy Company, the California-based corporation that owned the Daily News, to sell her the state’s still dominant news organization for a staggering $34 million.
Medred was gone a year later after he ignored orders to stop investigating Roland Maw, a member of the Board of Fisheries who turned out to be claiming residency in both Alaska and Montana to save a few bucks on hunting and fishing licenses. Illegal in both states, the action caused big problems for Maw in Alaska.
Indicted for illegally receiving Permanent Fund Dividends as a non-Alaskan, Maw has spent years trying to dodge those charges on technicalities, but he is now scheduled to be tried in Juneau in November.
Hopfinger, once the best of friends with Alice, was gone from the ADN within a year of Medred’s departure. Hopfinger and Alice had a falling out over Hopfinger’s repeated warnings the newspaper and website had to cut costs to avoid a business collapse.
Hopfinger is now scheduled to meet Alice in court in Anchorage in November. After he left the ADN, she refused to pay him the final $900,000 of a $1 million agreement she’d made to buy out his interest in the company he’d helped start. The contract was penned on a now famous cocktail napkin.
“I agree to pay Tony $100K at end of each year (beginning ’14) for 10 years,” it said; it was was signed “Alice Rogoff” and dated “4/18/14.” Hopfinger demanded something in writing because Alice appeared to be balking on formalizing an earlier promise due to the fact Northrim Bank, which lent her $13 million to help seal the Daily News purchase, was overseeing her spending habits.
The then-estranged wife of David Rubenstein, one of the richest men in the country, she long ignored the fact the Alaska Dispatch News/ADN.com as she had renamed the Anchorage Daily News/ADN.com was bleeding money.
In a March 2016, column Alice described the Dispatch news as in “investment mode” and quoted Jeff Bezos the founder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, with which the ADN had a business agreement, on investment mode as “operating at a financial loss, versus making a planned choice to invest in future growth.”
A little more than a year later, in late summer of 2017, Alice took the Dispatch into bankruptcy. Some familiar with the organization’s finances later questioned whether Alice ever wanted to run it as a business or simply intended it as a political platform. She was an early backer of Gov. Bill Walker and an inside player within the Walker administration early in the governor’s tenure.
After he was elected, she penned a column in the Daily News setting out an agenda for the new administration that included focusing “on the Bering Sea coast as the site of future development in the face of emerging Arctic shipping activity.”
At one point during Walker’s campaign against Republican incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell, she killed a Parnell newspaper advertisement to benefit Walker, according to former employees at the newspaper.
Arctic Now and Today
When Alice walked away from the wreckage of the Dispatch News leaving creditors holding about $2 million in debt, she took “Arctic Now,” an ADN creation, with her in apparent violation of bankruptcy law and later renamed it Arctic Today.
Her desire to hang onto that piece of her old empire appears to have played a role in driving her to earlier this month settle claims against the “Rogoff entities” that a bankruptcy attorney had been pursuing.
It was a big turn around for Alice, who had long held to the view that the Alaska Dispatch News owed her $16.6 million in reimbursement for cash she poured into her newspaper enterprise to keep it afloat.
Had that claim stood, Alice would have been entitled to more than 90 percent of any dollar paid Dispatch News/ADN creditors.
As part of the settlement, however, she abandoned the claim and agreed to make a payment of $1.5 million. About a $1 million will go to the creditors. The payment was backed by Rubenstein, who is now divorced from Alice.
Court documents say she “has made an irrevocable request to her ex-husband, who has agreed through his counsel, and in writing, to direct a portion of payments due to Rogoff pursuant to the document or documents setting forth the terms of the parties’ divorce settlement to be deposited” to pay the debt.
The newspaper and ADN.com are now owned by the Fairbanks-based Binkley Company LLC.