Media

Hidden story

Less than a year after former Alaska Dispatch News owner Alice Rogoff wrote a rather strange column describing her newspaper as being in “investment mode” and about 8 months before she took the company into bankruptcy, court documents now reveal the business was almost $1 million underwater and sinking fast.

It was news the newspaper was trying hard to keep out of the news. It would be a long time before Alaskans learned the state’s largest news organization was on the brink of going under, and shortly thereafter it would be in bankruptcy and sold to an old, Alaska family from the Interior city of Fairbanks.

When it was reported here in June that Catalyst Paper, a Canadian newsprint and ink supplier, had gone to court to try to get the Dispatch to pay its bills, the Rogoff-led Dispatch News dismissed the suit as the common sort of litigation that goes on between businesses.

The staff of the state’s largest news organization reported almost nothing about the start of the biggest business collapse in the state’s largest city until GCI, the state’s largest telecom and cable company, took Rogoff into state court to demand about $1.4 million in back rent and unpaid electric bills. 

Thus began the public unraveling of a story that had for months been developing under the noses of the reporters and editors working for the state’s largest news organization.

Since then, a lot of the details of the collapse of the shining star of what has come to be called Rogoff Inc. have emerged in U.S Bankruptcy Court hearings that have dragged on since September 2017, but new tidbits are coming out in a lawsuit filed against Rogoff by M&M Wiring Service Inc.

M&M was hired to wire a new printing plant the Dispatch News planned in an industrial section of the city’s Midtown. It claims in its court filings that it was defrauded by Rogoff and her associates.

Beginning of the end

Informed of cash-flow problems and the need to come up with more than $1.3 million to cover outstanding bills by the end of January 2017, M&M court filings say, Rogoff told her staff to simply stop paying some bills, including those of  M&M.

“It was after this point in time, now that Alaska Dispatch was unable to pay M&M, that Rogoff sent M&M’s invoices to Adam Cook (an attorney at the firm Birch Horton Bittner & Cherot) to review as they were ‘suddenly” a ‘way-inflated cost,'” the complaint says. “Rogoff was asked what should be paid, a Precision Maintenance & Fabricating invoice, a M&M invoice or the Premera monthly premium.”

Premera was the company providing health insurance coverage for all Dispatch News employees. It got paid.

Rogoff opted against paying M&M. The small, Anchorage company was eventually left holding the bag on almost a half million dollars due from Rogoff when she took her newspaper into bankruptcy eight months later.

It’s suit seeks compensation from Rogoff, Alaska Dispatch News, and Arctic Partners LLC, the owner of the old, oilfield services warehouse in Midtown Anchorage that Rogoff was trying to renovate as a much-needed new home for the ADN. But it has become clear from the emotions displayed by M&M owner Mark Miller at Bankrupcy Court hearings that he holds Rogoff primarily responsible for the difficulties his business faced.

A 98-page amended complaint filed in conjunction with his case earlier this month  accuses the 67-year-old, former Washington, D.C. socialite of “fraud and/or an unfair business practice(s).”

“Rogoff and her agents…retained M&M to perform almost a million dollars in electrical work (labor and materials) to the Arctic Partners buildings and continued to promise to pay M&M in order to keep them working on the project knowing that the debtor was losing nearly a half a million dollars a month and could not pay what it owed to M&M and continued to direct M&M to perform work despite having hired a replacement contractor(s),” the complaint says.

The complaint details all sorts of alleged misbehavior on the part of Rogoff and associates.

Birch, Horton, Bittner

Cook, the complaint says, “represented himself as an agent of M&M to the Municipality of Anchorage and transferred M&M’s electrical permit…without any permission or authority from M&M.”

The Birch Horton law firm has long represented Rogoff.

With Cook tangled in the M&M affair, company principal Bill Bittner finds himself caught in different litigation between Rogoff and former Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger. Hopfinger is suing Rogoff for $900,000 of the $1 million she promised to pay him for the online-only news site Alaska Dispatch.

That case is slated to head to trail this week.

Hopfinger started Alaska Dispatch with ex-wife Amanda Coyne. Rogoff later bought controlling interest. Bankrolled by Rogoff, Hopfinger and Coyne  built the Dispatch into what the Columbia Journalism Review described as a “regional reporting powerhouse.”

That set Rogoff up to begin discussions with The McClatchy Company about buying the Anchorage Daily News, her much bigger competitor in the Alaska news market. A California-based company, McClatchy had been struggling since buying the bigger Knight-Ridder Inc. newspaper chain for $4.5 billion in 2006.

It continues to struggle as what was once a vibrant market for news on print disappears into the tubes. The owner of  30 large and medium-sized daily newspapers from the Miami Herald in Florida to the Kansas City Star in Flyover Country to the mothership Sacramento, Calif., McClatchy revenues fell 7.5 percent in 2016 with a print ad loss of 20.6 percent in the fourth quarter, Politico.com reported last year.

McClatchy could hardly resist a $34 million deal with Rogoff for a paper that was probably worth closer to a third of that. Over the objections of Hopfinger and other advisers, who said the Daily News price was too high, Rogoff bought and promptly rebranded the Alaska Dispatch as the Alaska Dispatch News so as to maintain the large, online presence of ADN.com while merging her old news operation with the Daily News.

Hopfinger oversaw that merger while negotiating with Rogoff’s lawyers on selling his interest in the company. They settled on a $1 million deal. When Rogoff balked at formalizing the agreement, Hopfinger pressed her for something more than a promise, and she wrote out a pledge to pay $100,000 per year over 10 years on a cocktail napkin, then signed and dated it.

She’d done a similar napkin deal with Hopfinger and Coyne to buy the Dispatch. That napkin is now forgotten. The Hopfinger napkin has gained a small bit of infamy and is at the center of Hopfinger-Rogoff lawsuit.

Rogoff has since suggested the whole affair stems from Bittner acting as a rogue agent in trying to negotiate a buyout of Hopfinger only to have a state court judge defend the attorney. The one thing that is clear is that Rogoff generated a lot of billable hours for Bittner’s law firm.

The mess in Midtown

Cook’s takeover of oversight on the Rogoff construction project came just before the Dec. 29, 2016 termination of M&M, which came just days before the Municipality of Anchorage slapped a stop-work order on the project, according to the M&M complaint.

The stop work order accused the Dispatch News of working on the new print plant without approved drawings and plan review.

Miller, who has been among the creditors angriest about Rogoff’s taking the ADN into bankruptcy, takes a direct shot at her involvement in that hot mess in the complaint.

“Rogoff held herself out as knowledgable and having a background in finance with the specialized knowledge and expertise to run and operate a newspaper business in a profitable manner,” Miller attorney Wayne Dawson wrote.

“Rogoff’s claims were untrue and known to be untrue by Rogoff and her agents at the time she knew (M&M) and others were relying on said representations and the image she put forth in the community.”

Rogoff’s resume says she has an MBA from the Harvard Business School and experience as the chief financial officer for U.S. News & World Report magazine and as an assistant to former Washington Post publisher Donald Graham. 

All she managed to do in the Alaska news business was lose money. Lots of money.

Rogoff claimed $23 million in losses in her approximately three-year ownership of the ADN, and her actual losses might have topped $30 million. Most of the money came from once estranged and now former husband David Rubenstein, one of the richest men in the country.

The Miller filings note Rogoff’s admission she somehow planned to spend her way to business success. In federal Bankruptcy Court, the complaint says, she admitted she was “willing to operate the ADN at an operating loss both to maintain robust journalism” and ensure ADN “maintained its position as the dominant online news source in Alaska.”

The complaint then goes on to add that Rogoff did that “to the detriment of M&M. These practices…offend the public policy, are immoral, unethical and unscrupulous, and have caused substantial injury to M&M and others.”

Included in the M&M filings are copies of emails between Miller and Ed McCoy at the Dispatch News. McCoy was in charge of the construction project before Cook took over.

During bankruptcy hearings, Rogoff described him as her “friend and dog sitter.” The M&M emails make it appear Miller was trying to help lead McCoy through the Anchorage permitting process.

Miller at one point messaged McCoy to ask if ADN wanted purchase orders to detail the costs of revisions to the electrical distribution system that proved to be needed during the building remodel.

“No PO needed,” McCoy responded,”Need brake (sic) down as we talked. Weekly invoice as we talked. Email to my email. Brake (sic) out a number for engineering along with the other groups we went over.”

No printing plant

Rogoff was in a rush to get the Midtown printing plant ready because she needed to move her printing operations out of the old Anchorage Daily News building on Northway Drive in the city’s Airport Heights area.

In order to make possible the $34 million purchase of the newspaper from McClatchy  in March of 2014, Rogoff had agreed to sell the old ADN home to GCI for $14.5 million and a commitment to provide $500,000 in ADN advertising once she had control of the newspaper.

The building contained not only the ADN offices,  but the ADN printing press.

GCI wanted the offices moved out, which was relatively easy. And the company offered Rogoff reasonable terms to house her printing press for the short team and keep it running at Northway until she could get a new press in operation.

That agreement finally fell apart in August of last year with Rogoff far behind in rent payments and electric bills.

Payments to GCI, M&M and others doing business with the ADN started to dry up  shortly after company losses for fiscal 2016 passed the $5.2 million mark in October 2016, the lawsuit says.

The newspaper’s deep financial trouble went generally unreported even though there were rumors that could have been pursued and a community belief the newspaper remained a vital source of information for Alaskans.

Rogoff herself would later proclaim the ADN “vital to all Alaska” in a plea to a federal bankruptcy judge to approve a $1 million loan from the Fairbanks-based Binkley Company to keep the newspaper printing through August 2017.

That $1 million eventually became the purchase price for the business Rogoff had bought slightly more than three years before for $34 million. But by the time the ADN sold, it was basically devoid of assets.

The 125,000-square-foot monument to newspapers McClatchy had built in Alaska was gone. So, too, the newspaper’s printing press and much of its advertising punch. The news by then had largely moved online to where Rogoff had started before her dream of owning a newspaper cost her what most people would consider a fortune.

 

 

 

 

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19 replies »

  1. Steve has done some interesting work linking David’s interests to Alice’s pronouncements. Were the two really estranged or conspiring? She wanted a deep water port, now ports in the Artic. Lisa wants that two. See Alice’s recent interview of Lisa on line. For a while the two have worked hand in glove. And David was up here several times extolling the development of the Arctic. All innocent coincidences, not. Steve is just scratching the surface. Joe Miller would have stopped Alice dead in her tracks. Hence her way laying of him in 2010. Dig deep Steve.

    Like

  2. This is going out to Steve and the Propaganda machine the ADN. You have pushed the Global Warming lie to the point of it being a religion and phony “science”. You both want to chomp on this for awhile?

    Lack of sunspots to bring record cold, warns NASA scientist.

    “The sun is entering one of the deepest Solar Minima of the Space Age,” wrote Dr Tony Phillips just six weeks ago, on 27 Sep 2018.

    Sunspots have been absent for most of 2018 and Earth’s upper atmosphere is responding, says Phillips, editor of spaceweather.com.

    Data from NASA’s TIMED satellite show that the thermosphere (the uppermost layer of air around our planet) is cooling and shrinking, literally decreasing the radius of the atmosphere.

    To help track the latest developments, Martin Mlynczak of NASA’s Langley Research Center and his colleagues recently introduced the “Thermosphere Climate Index.”

    The Thermosphere Climate Index (TCI) tells how much heat nitric oxide (NO) molecules are dumping into space. During Solar Maximum, TCI is high (meaning “Hot”); during Solar Minimum, it is low (meaning “Cold”).

    “Right now, it is very low indeed … 10 times smaller than we see during more active phases of the solar cycle,”

    If current trends continue, it could soon set a Space Age record for cold,” says Mlynczak. “We’re not there quite yet, but it could happen in a matter of months.”

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    • Bryan,
      Ever hear of 228 people missing in a wildfire in U.S. history?
      How about 2 million acres burned in ONE state during one fire “season”?
      Maybe U also missed how Hilcorp asked for a year extension in Beaufort Sea since they claimed “there were less months with ice coverage than predicted”….
      But this article is about Rogoff and her collusion to steal our PFD’s to inflate her husband’s (now ex husband) business Carlyle Group’s profit off of managing our PF and diverting earnings towards more oil industry investments (like HilCorp’s 9 new wells in Cook Inlet in 2017).
      Lastly if you are in the airline industry, you are biggest polluters in the world….hence your constant vehement attacks on those trying to help our environmental issues.
      The Airline Industry burns 11,000 gallons of Petrol every SECOND in world air travel…..
      Chew on that one!

      Like

  3. The fact that Alice was willing to spend 3 million or more on Walkers election sorta warms my heart.

    Too bad that incident in Fairbanks scuttled the second go round.

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  4. Thanks Craig. How about a story on Alice’s greatest accomplishments: Smearing Parnell to enable the Walker victory, hobnobbing with Obama, and incessant promotion by her columnists for a State income tax.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not too mention NONE of the stories mention how Alice’s husband’s company Carlyle Group made 20 million off of managing Alaskan’s PF at the same time…then Carlyle’s subsidiary Hillcorp goes and turns an old gas line in the Cook Inlet into a modern oil pipeline and drills 9 new “sweet” wells in 2017 in the Cook Inlet with no environmental backlash…
      Then there is the “off shore” lease in the Beaufort Sea that Hillcorp is allowed to build a fake island and drill some more…
      Don’t worry about Alice…
      Her coffers are just fine.
      Oligarchs never pay their loans…..that is why they are so stinking rich!

      Like

      • Craig,
        They are divorced today, yet they were still married when Alice was in charge of ADN and “cheerleading” for Walker’s stealing of our PFD’s while her husband (at the time) was making $20 million a year “managing” the PF through his $188 billion dollar “banking conglomerate” Carlyle.
        That was my point.

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      • Darn interesting. Nice to know more . If there was fraud involved with her husbands money and Alaska . Was her divorce to save husband a few bucks ? Draw a financial barrier? I think they are part of a grand scheme to impoverish Americans so they are easier to control. Medred is to reasonable to believe in that craziness ( I don’t blame him ) but I’m betting there will some day be a link proven to ultra rich and bankers pulling strings to keep as many worker humans on financial edge as possible so they can keep on paying shitty wages = higher corporate profits and giving out high interest loans to put people in a bind . Look up definition of mortgage = basically death grip. They make it so workers are happy to take any wage to just be able to feed their families. Wages were worth a lot more in 70s . Takes a shopping cart full of money to buy groceries now . I say walker , Obama , soros , frank murkowski , big bankers , fed and fraud-theif Alice rogoff are all connected . How’s that for a mouth full . I say people who rip off workers and suppliers like Alice did should go to prison and stay there . Her political lobbyist news paper got wrong people elected and ripped off Alaska and pushed our economy into a tailspin not to mention she dishonored the concept of news creating distrust and making it harder for banks and lenders to trustingly loan money. Her promises were worthless giving regular buisness a bad name . Plus she stole from people and company’s providing her products and services who are just trying to feed their families. All those costs should be considered and she should pay for the damages she caused or go to prison permanently. Wow I got carried away . But it’s true .

        Liked by 1 person

      • Opinion,
        Alice’s exact quote in one of her pieces she wrote said:
        “Legislators, there is no justification for wasting so much of our state’s precious savings” (by paying out the 2016 dividend according to schedule)
        Meanwhile…
        “The amount of PF principal controlled by the Carlyle Group totals $750 million. About half of that money is directed to private equity, the rest is intended to be invested in one of Carlyle’s mega subsidiaries in the energy, mineral, or natural resource sectors.”
        Like Hilcorp.
        See da picture?

        https://www.anchoragepress.com/news/bad-news/article_5ef9ee9c-ca4c-5058-b4a1-7319900a0e30.html

        Like

      • Craig,
        Anything is possible, but I doubt there was little environmental oversight looking at our dysfunctional DEC and neutered EPA with Trumpsters in every office.
        I wonder how many of those 9 new wells were “fracked” and if the MSDS sheets are available online for all the chemicals dumped into the seabed of a home to Beluga whales and fish, etc?

        Like

      • Steve I’m with you on fracking. Needs to stop . IMO the science says so . Our water must take precidence . Other greener options must be developed and used . Fracking is a crime and travesty. Misinformation,Greed and carelessness drives these bad decisions. Protect our water !

        Liked by 1 person

    • Well, easy solution here, do not follow the blog.
      Anyway, your comment is irrelevant, since it I s Craig’s blog.
      Better idea, start your own blog, why don’t you, see the relevancy there.

      Liked by 1 person

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