Dead newspapers



The old home of Alaska’s once most famous newspaper/Craig Medred photo


The legal faceoff between former Alaska Dispatch News publisher Alice Rogoff – the one-time Washington, D.C. socialite who plotted to own the media landscape of the 49th state before bankrupting the state’s largest media operation – and former Dispatch editor-in-chief Tony Hopfinger opened in Anchorage on Tuesday with nothing but bad news for journalism.

If there’s anything worse than being known and hated in the media business, it’s being invisible.

Asked for a show of hands from the jury pool in Superior Court Judge Andrew Guidi’s courtroom on how many there knew of Rogoff, Hopfinger or the Dispatch News, only a quarter to a third of the potential jurors raised an arm.

If Rogoff bought the Anchorage Daily News/ and turned it into the Alaska Dispatch News/ hoping to buy influence, as some believe, it would appear to have been a bad deal, though probably not as bad the purchase itself.

In April 2014, Rogoff paid $34 million to take the helm of the state’s largest newspaper and by far biggest news website. Under her command, the operation lost $23 million over the course of the next two and a half years.

By January 2017, she was telling ADN staff not to pay some bills because her business lacked the cash flow to cover all its costs. 

Lacking the necessary funds to pay paperboys to deliver the product by August of last year, she took the Dispatch News into bankruptcy. At the fire sale that followed, the Binkley Company from Fairbanks ended up buying what was left of the news operation for $1 million.

Oh how the media landscape has shifted in earthquake-prone Anchorage.

Bob Atwood

The 44-year-old Hopfinger, neatly dressed in suit and tie with his dark hair graying at the temples, and the 67-year-old Rogoff, bespectacled and looking grandmotherly in a sweater with her brown hair pulled back, sat at tables side by side in the Nesbett Courthouse in downtown on Tuesday just across the street from a long-gone journalistic institution – the Anchorage Times.

Forty years ago, almost everyone in Alaska – not just Anchorage – knew the name of Bob Atwood, the Times’ owner and publisher. Atwood was an iconic Alaska figure who bought a local newspaper with 650 subscribers and five employees in the mid-1930s and grew it into an operation with nearly 400 employees printing and distributing almost 50,000 copies by the start of the 1980s, according to Alaska

The U.S. Census counted only about 400,000 people in the entire state in 1980.  There are now almost that many living in the Anchorage Metropolitan Area alone. The reach of the Times by modern standards was nothing short of phenomenal. There seemed to be Anchorage Times boxes outside every house in the state’s largest city.

Today, the circulation of the state’s largest newspaper – renamed the Daily News after the Binkley purchase – is thought to be between 20,000 and 30,000.  Once approaching 100,000, it has been in steady decline for a long time.

Rogoff thought if she spent enough money, she could turn the steady drop in circulation and then start selling more newspapers. The scheme didn’t work.

The  Dispatch News is now as dead as the Times.

The conservative, evening newspaper led by the man who chaired the Alaska Statehood Committee – the man who helped get Anchorage International Airport (now the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport) off the ground and much more – was sold in 1989 in the middle of one of the country’s last great newspaper wars.

The Times would be dead three years later, a victim of the more aggressive and better-funded Anchorage Daily News owned by The McClatchy Company in Sacramento, Calif. One of those who played a role in bringing down the Times was in the audience behind Hopfinger during jury selection.

W.P. “Pat” Dougherty was a former employee of Atwood, who joined the Daily News as the newspaper war was just beginning, and worked his way up through the glory years of victory over the Times and the circulation growth that neared 100,000 on Sundays. He eventually become the ADN vice-president who oversaw its shrinkage as it began to fade before the onslaught of the internet.

By the time the online-only bought its bigger competitor and Doughtery was shown the door, the newspaper which was once an Alaska powerhouse was smaller than the Times under Atwood.

Rogoff was the majority owner of Dispatch. Hopfinger and now ex-wife Amanda Coyne were its founders. Coyne was gone by the time Rogoff bought the News and moved it out of the massive 125,000-square-foot palace to publishing McClatchy built on Northway Drive in Anchorage’s Airport Height districts.

A telecom and cable television company – GCI – now owns the building destined to quickly fade away into history as did the Times. The building across from the Nesbett Courthouse is officially today “The Alaska Judiciary Snowden Administrative Office Building.”

It bears no hint of the man who once owned the news business in Alaska in the way Rogoff wanted to own it. Judging from the lack of name recognition in the courtroom, she will fade from memory even faster than Atwood did.

the napkin

An infamous napkin

But first there’s the little matter of $1 million still connecting Hopfinger and Rogoff to be resolved. Once the best of friends and allies in the news business, they are now locked in a legal dispute that looks emotionally more like a divorce than a business deal.

Simply put, Rogoff promised Hopfinger $1 million for his assistance in helping manuever her into position to buy the ADN. Rogoff, according to friends, is a serious shopper, and the ADN was for her to be the purchase of a lifetime.

She wanted to own the newspaper so bad that she ignored the advice of Hopfinger and others in her inner circle that McClatchy’s asking price was way too high, according to former associates. After the purchase, she ignored the advice of Hopfinger and others to trim costs to get them in line with revenues, they say.

Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Hopfinger decided he wanted out and began negotiations to sell his 5 percent interest in Alaska Dispatch Publishing, the company that bought the ADN. With the purchase having set the market value at $34 million, 5 percent would have been $1.7 million.

Hopfinger, however, offered to sell his shares for $1.3 million “to be paid over five years,” as Guidi summarized in ruling on a pre-court motion. “According to Hopfinger, Rogoff immediately made an oral counter-offer of $1 million plus stock options, which he accepted. He then pressed Rogoff over the next several weeks to memorialize their agreement in writing.”

The problem was there was a problem.

Rogoff, the then-wife (now ex-wife) of billionaire, East Coast, business mogul David Rubenstein, had taken out a $13 million personal loan from Northrim Bank to help buy the ADN, and the bank had her on a short leash. She was under orders not to make any commitments of more than $50,000 a month without Northrim approval.

On April 18, 2014 – as the merger of the operations of the Dispatch News and the Anchorage Daily News was just getting underway – Guidi wrote, there was another meeting between Hopfinger and Rogoff that “culminated in Rogoff writing on a paper napkin, in the presence of her lawyer and Hopfinger, that she would pay Hopfinger $100,000 per year for ten years at the end of each calendar year, starting in 2014.”

Satisfied with a napkin promise that mimicked the way Rogoff bought controlling interest in Alaska Dispatch, Hopfinger continued contract negotiations with Rogoff’s lawyers while they waited for Northrim to lift the contract restriction. Rogoff made the first of 10 promised payments of $100,000. But a formal contract was never completed.

Negotiations continued “until November (2015),” the judge wrote, “when Rogoff emailed Hopfinger, stating that the Northrim loan no longer barred the agreement. As a result, the parties planned a face-to-face meeting on November 30 to finalize the deal, but Rogoff failed to attend the meeting.”

A few days later, Hopfinger and Rogoff had a parking lot confrontation. Rogoff contends Hopfinger quit on her. He says she fired him. Whatever happened in that parking lot, Rogoff  concluded that Hopfinger had abandoned her.

The next payment due Hopfinger failed to show, and in June of 2016 Hopfinger filed suit asking for the $900,000 Rogoff owed him for Dispatch, severance pay for his dismissal from the ADN and more.

Rogoff countered that part of her deal with Hopfinger was that he stay in Anchorage for the 10 years to help her run the new ADN, and once he deserted her, all deals were off.

Lawyerly performances

Much of the disintegration of the business is expected to get dissected in court.

The lawyers for Hopinger, Jeffery Robinson, and Rogoff, David Gross, spent Tuesday trying to sort through potential jurors they thought might be most friendly to their case and to develop some rapport with those people.

Robinson told a story about how he once traded a perfectly good 2005 Volvo for a beat-up, 1985 Jeep Waggoner – the so-called “Woody” model – because he’d always wanted to own a Woody.

One of the potential jurors told him it sounded like a bad deal.

“I appreciate that you wouldn’t have done that,” the attorney said, and then queried jurors on whether they understood that the value placed on things is highly subjective and depends to a significant extent on what the buyer is willing to pay.

The question was a clear setup to prime the jury to counter expected Rogoff arguments at trial that she shouldn’t have to pay Hopfinger $1 million because his 5 percent interest in the Dispatch News wasn’t worth that much.

Gross led potential jurors through a confusing litany of questions about what they’d do if they unexpectedly discovered something valuable. It started with a story about his brother being given a box of throwaway coins by a friend only to discover one of the coins was worth $5,000 and evolved into one of the jurors finding cash in a freezer.

Gross’s questions focused on what prospective jurors would do with the discovery of an unexpected profit: Give it back to the original owner unaware of its value or pocket the cash.

The prospective juror who found the money in a freezer he’d been given said he gave the money back and got a reward. Most of the others said their action would depend on whether a friend or a stranger were involved. Several said they’d feel guilty if they kept the money, but might do that.

What Gross was looking for or where he was going with that questioning was unclear, but his “craigslist” question was obvious. It was focused on the need for formal contracts and who would or wouldn’t sell something valuable without drawing up such an agreement.

The scenario started with selling cars but detoured when a member of the jury pool pointed out that to sell a car you have to fill out a title transfer, which is in effect a contract. Discussions of selling antiques, snowmachines and more followed.

Gross has tried to make the case in pretrial filings that Hopfinger isn’t entitled to anything because he and Rogoff never completed a detailed, formally binding contract. The judge earlier rejected that idea and said it was up to a jury decide whether the napkin on which Rogoff scribbled her promise in the presence of her attorney is contract enough.

Gross also queried jurors on how they would feel about selling their craigslist item on time with a series of payments. Most said they wouldn’t do it with a stranger, but might with a friend.

Gross appeared to be trying to prime the jury for the argument that if Hopfinger really expected to get his money, he should have gotten a better agreement in writing from Rogoff before they parted ways.

Gross also asked a few questions about bankruptcy. He wanted to know if any jurors thought it was wrong to use the system if that was warranted. All seemed to agree that was fine, but the necessity of the matter in Rogoff’s case could become an issue at trial.

Rogoff, with financial assistance from her ex-husband, in late September agreed to a Bankruptcy Court plan calling for her to pay about $1.5 million of the $2 million in claims against her company after court documents indicate an attorney working for the bankruptcy trustee began looking into possible fraud. 

















30 replies »

  1. Let us hope, AR pays the $1.5 million, packs her bag and leaves.
    In another note:
    Print news is going by the wayside. In ten years or less, 85% of the news delivered in the US, will be by digital or cable means. The urban city daily, will be a thing of the past.
    Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

  2. Am I a thread killer? Or more so a genius that intimidates my opponents? No worries It’s all good…

    • “Am I a thread killer? Or more so a genius that intimidates my opponents? No worries It’s all good…”

      nyman, it’s simpler than that. You’re a f____g idiot. The only ‘genius’ you have is having access to a computer and being able, more or less, to use it. You are as intimidating as a red-backed vole.

  3. Regarding common property resources, I find it notable that in every State west of Nebraska (following the Civil War), the federal government retained ownership of vast land areas in each State. Today Nevada is 83% federally owned. I believe Alaska is second at 60+%.
    This may have been the result of the Civil War weakening the “states rights” argument and today the 10th Amendment being described by Chief Justice William O. Douglas as the “amendment in exile”.

  4. Craig: “but back to the point. go read the Alaska Constitution. it’s built on a socialist base of “common property resources.” the state’s founders wanted a collective.”

    Isn’t all forms of government a collective and can thus be described as Socialism?
    The opposite of government would then be Anarchy?

    There used to be a common argument that the PFD would attract people to Alaska for the wrong reasons. That argument was ignored in the fervor for the free money. Now politicians are promising to memorialize the PFD in the Constitution and $6700 Dividends while imperiling our State financial solvency and “borrowing” from our State savings accounts to pay for the largesse (almost $18 billion is now down to $1.7 billion).

  5. First off,
    I think it is great we are naming buildings in Alaska after Mr. Snowden (hopefully Edward, I presume)….
    As for the state of da Union, well wake up Americans…
    We are now the most Socialized Country in the free world (remember the $8.5 Trillon dollar bailout that the Banksters forced on the Obama administration….he had no choice….”sign or the economy collapses”).
    Well this $8.5 Trillion dollars was more than we spent on WWII and Vietnam combined….way more!
    And the “left” did not benifit nearly as much as business on the “right”.
    Like banking, defense and airline to name the top 3.
    This is after BUSH gave the airline industry $15 Billion in 2002.
    So, here we are today and your socialist agruments mean nothing…
    “Bailouts” of billions on billions to industries like “defense”….companies run by Rogoff’s ex with the Carlyle Group bankers, while the average Alaskan “Prol” can not even get their full PFD….Hilcorp needs more!
    As for the current case….
    Craig writes:
    “Gross appeared to be trying to prime the jury for the argument that if Hopfinger really expected to get his money, he should have gotten a better agreement in writing from Rogoff before they parted ways”…
    There you have it folks, can we move to deliberation?

    • Are you speaking of a bank bailout, other than the one Henry Paulson sold to our Congress during Bush administration?
      Lisa and John McCain later have attempted to whitewash their votes for that bailout, saying they wouldn’t do it again, but that was conveniently after the world economy weathered the storm. At the time it was something that hard-core capitalists were forced to swallow their pride.
      Obama was left to clean up the mess.

      • Bill, Obama, a radical, Socialist, Community Agitator cleaning up government and saving the free world. Wow!! Damn, I am laughing so hard I am puking. You cannot be this far removed from reality – are you?

      • Yessir Bryan, next you’ll be telling us that we didn’t have the Great Recession of 2008 either. Or that perhaps it was Clinton (or Obama) caused it. Heheh!
        Puke away!

    • Steve, you do realize it was Clinton (Democrat) and his Democrat cronies in Congress and the Community Reinvestment Act (where Democrats FORCED banks with winks and gov muscle if they didn’t invest high risk loans in the hoods) that was responsible for the Democrat Obama to bailout? It wasn’t $8.5 trillion but, Obama did take the debt from $9.5 trillion to $20 trillion in EIGHT SHORT YEARS. Racking up the most government waste in world HISTORY!!!
      Did you vote for Gary Johnson of all people or the golfer?

      • Bryan…
        Your ignorance is blinding your perception.
        Let’s go back to Bill Clinton.
        He essentially had a balanced budget and we were not operating in national debt mode.
        Then the Congressional Milatary Cheerleading Complex stepped in and passed a repeal of the “glass steagall act” of 1933, while marching our soldiers off to an “undelared” war in the Balkans (remember Camp Bondsteel….the largest forgein U.S. Milatary base in the world?)
        Camp Bondsteel costed the U.S. taxpayer a lot to build.
        This is what started the “debt crisis ” caravan.
        Congressional efforts to “repeal the Glass–Steagall Act”, referring to those four provisions (and then usually to only the two provisions that restricted affiliations between commercial banks and securities firms),[4] culminated in the 1999 Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act (GLBA), which repealed the two provisions restricting affiliations between banks and securities firms.[5]
        So, this deregulation allowed “Hedge Fund” companies like Goldman Sachs to lead us to the Mortage Crisis of 08.
        Obama had NOTHING to do with this…
        Not too mention the Bush’s war in Iraq added another few trillion to the national debt….
        So, without the repeal of glass steagall, companies like Rubenstein’s Carlyle Group are not allowed to function as a “commercial bank” and investment management business…ie “Hedge Fund” bankers.
        Thank your fellow Republicans like Don Young for leading the repeal of this critical act that was put in place after the great depression of 1930’s…not Obama, although a Dem, Bill Clinton did formalize the repeal after Congress voted to move in this direction.
        Planned destruction of our national wealth and constant inflation for the “consumers”.

      • Steve, the lie is laid, the ADN publishes, regulations and taxes raised and you believe..Repeat…

        Researchers with UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Princeton University recently walked back scientific findings published last month that showed oceans have been heating up dramatically faster than previously thought as a result of climate change.

        In a paper published Oct. 31 in the journal Nature, researchers found that ocean temperatures had warmed 60 percent more than outlined by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

        However, the conclusion came under scrutiny after mathematician Nic Lewis, a critic of the scientific consensus around human-induced warming, posted a critique of the paper on the blog of Judith Curry, another well-known critic.

        “The findings of the … paper were peer reviewed and published in the world’s premier scientific journal and were given wide coverage in the English-speaking media,” Lewis wrote. “Despite this, a quick review of the first page of the paper was sufficient to raise doubts as to the accuracy of its results.”

  6. Not to mention Native Corps which have made their business model of living off of Government Contracts. Anchorage is a Leftist Government worker outpost.

  7. I am not surprised so few know of this saga out of pool of Anchoragites. Anchorage is basically a Carpet Bagger city. Every few years half of the population basically changes out. It used to be more military and then oil business related. In recent decades its more and more Locust People from neo-Marxist places like Kalifornia, Portland and Seattle who want the easy life on other people’s dime. In other words Anchorage has become a Snowflake City in more ways than one. As far as Pat Dougherty is concerned, he is one of the biggest carpet bagging commies the State of Alaska has ever seen. I am sad to hear he is back in the State.

    • Mongo is right. The problem is these leftist “carperbaggers” ruin their own states with higher taxes, crime, corruption, job killimg regulations, social programs, while taking over the judicial and education systems. The problem is they are to stupid to learn from their mental behaviors, all the while entrenching elsewhere to spread their cancer.
      Leftist newspapers add fuel and a mouthpiece to these mental whacks. They are all of the same cloth.
      I say good riddance.

      • sadly, Bryan, Alaskans can’t blame any carperbaggers. i think you meant carpetbaggers, but i like your Don Youngism. carperbaggers….sort of like whinerbaggers.

        but back to the point. go read the Alaska Constitution. it’s built on a socialist base of “common property resources.” the state’s founders wanted a collective. they’d seen the history of resource development in the north:

        fisheries controlled by Seattle interests. miners who got their gold and split. Natives living a subsistence lifestyle that wore them out by their 30s and saw them die young.

        they wanted to lock more of an economy into a godforsaken frozen land most people wanted to flee in winter. getting collective control of resources and whatever money they could get out of them was one way to do that.

        getting the U.S. government fired up about possible threats from the Russian bear so it would send troops north was another.

        eventually state evolved into some sort of capitalist-socialist hybrid with a PFD everyone wants and a hardcore group of people who think the oil industry (which built the modern Alaska economy and provided the start up money for that PFD) is pure evil.

      • Historically the greatest problem in Alaska was that most of the wealth created left immediately, if not eventually. In the last several decades we added another problem, which is “nobody’s money”. More than more than any other state the economic activity in the SOA is “nobody’s money”.

        When it belongs to somebody, then somebody cares. When it belongs to nobody, by definition, nobody can care there is nobody to care. Nobody’s money includes federal spending, state spending, CDQs, ANCSAs and the APFC.

      • Craig,
        U make some good points.
        Alaska is the most Socialized State that I have ever encountered.
        It forces residents to adapt (accept PFD alms by oil industry) and work in fields supported by state subsidies.
        I see AK in a “rebranding” phase, kinda like after the mass exodus in the 1980’s.
        Look to your left…look to your right, if you are still here no one is on either side it seems.
        A real problem is the “myopic” approach that comes with a stranglehold by oil & gas lobbyists.
        It is like trading comm fish over sportfishing….
        Picking one resource over the next does not seem right.
        Obviously many people in AK feel more green energy projects should come forward, but with an administration that looks more like Murkowski Era ahead, we will not see gov funds go towards “renewables”.
        With AK’s socialist structure comes a fear of outside investments, hence the vicous cycle of boom and bust “strike it rich” Alaskan Economics.
        After the last few years of poor salmon returns and sportfishing closures, I just noticed the last major “air taxi” business in Willow has a “for sale” sign in front….the other major outfitter sold their hanger a few years ago.
        This is the rebranding and trading of one resource for another….the changing face of Alaska.

      • Break it down even simpler. There are people in Alaska that are here for lifestyle. The other half are here to work hard and make some money before the retire to their ranch in Arizona. Its all good. The lifestylers will work hard to put a bakery and coffee shop within a short drive. The moneymakers will work hard to extract $10 billion dollars from the ground and get their grubstake to paradise.

      • Chris,
        To one level, I agree with your comment….
        Only, there is a problem if 48% of the “grubstake” class lives outside AK and just flys up to fill up their savings account, when the “lifestyle” class as you say builds the bakery and coffee shop, along with local service economy.
        The problem is that the Oakies and Texans will still fly up to “da slope” while the homesteaders and local businessman are tossing up for sale signs and leaving.
        What U are left with is a welfare class of neither the “hard workers” as you say or any of the local folks remaining.
        Obviously, constant sportfishing closures in SC is exacerbating this current exodus.
        Truly a Colonial Class of “transients” develops since only the foolish will now invest in the local economy and intend on developing “roots” in AK.

    • Hey Mongo,
      So you’re saying that Anchorage, home of some of crazy high rents and home prices vs the rest of the state, is attracting Locust People from commie states to live the good life in AK off of other peoples $?… So people are moving to AK to get the dividend and live off of our hard earned $’s? How are they living for the rest of the year when they don’t get their $1k of Socialism bucks every other month? Is there a secret Anchorage citizens trust that I don’t know about that treats these Locusts to (our) free $ so that they can live for the rest of the year? As a hard core, fiscal conservative, I’m not seeing how this is adding up. Or are you just saying that these new commie locusts should not be able to participate in ‘our’ very own socialist program known as the PFD? The whole idea of fellow conservatives not wanting to share our socialist $ with others is mind blowing to me…

      • The City’s largest combined employer is Government (Federal, State, Local) all represented by leftist unions. The second larges combined employer is in the health care industry, which since the nonaffordable care act is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Imperial Federal Government. Add in various “NGOs” of the watermelon type that live off of Federal Grants and there in lies the majority of Locust People who are continuously transferring in and out of Anchorage. Through in a fundamental tenet of Marxism (High Graduated Tax on Production thru the property tax) and you have identified the fundamental building blocks of the next Commie Hell Hole.

      • Well, at least now I understand where to find the commies. They’re the people who work for hospitals and unions. I should have known. Well, I own a small construction company out in ‘real’ Alaska so I don’t have any union competition, however, I do know a few people who are in construction unions in Anchorage – I didn’t know that they were even slightly liberal! It’s a good thing that I know that those undercover commie agents won’t change the weight / height on my charts when I go see my commie doctor next month. Thank god that you told me where to find them thar’ commies in my life. I always thought that the commies were the so called conservatives who try to convince me that the PFD is actually the highest obtainment of conservative principles that should be defended at all costs…

        I also love how no matter what the subject is, there is always a couple of dudes that will steer the conversation to politics. As if that actually matters…

        Keep it real folks!

        1 other question – If livin’ off the gob’ment teet is so great for these locusts, why are they continually moving in and OUT of Anchorage? Wouldn’t they just move IN and live the rest of their existence in the nirvana that is commie Anchorage?

      • For what it’s worth Jack, just imagine our PFD if it was in the form that Jay Hammond originally proposed it (Alaskans with more time in State would get more of those earnings than later arrivals).
        This was a bit less socialistic, I guess, and Mongo’s God would have no doubt “blessed it.”

    • oh, old WPD isn’t such a bad guy. he had his good points, and he had his bad points. we all do.

      he could be counted on to make decisions rather than ponder things forever, a good trait in managers. he suffered from being among the most close-minded people you will ever meet.

      but he certainly wasn’t a commie. on a personal level, he always was very much the capitalist. he stood in and took he meat ax to the ADN to help McClatchy maintain sizable profit margins in Alaska to keep his salary and bonuses.

      i don’t think i could have done it. it’s a painful process to throw people out of the boat. it takes a tough guy.

      • WPD is the epitome of why newspapers and the MSM are failing. He admitted to me that his job was to produce an agenda driven news (aka propaganda). Even to the point of personally deleting and shadow banning any comments that were contrary to any supported political agenda of his. You wanna know why there is division and strife in this country? Look no further than SOB’s like good old WPD who are out there politicizing everything from science to football.

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