Stiffed on a $119 pair of boots by millionaire Alice Rogoff in 2017 – the former owner and publisher of what is today the Anchorage Daily News (ADN.com) – the proprietor of the city’s “Boot Country” is now slated to get a $15.01 check from the U.S Bankruptcy Court.
That’s $290,105.04 less than Rogoff is slated to collect from the bankruptcy court, but the former Washington, D.C socialite and ex-wife of David Rubenstein, one of the nation’s richest men, remains the biggest loser in the Bankruptcy Trustee’s Final Report and Application for Compensation.
The trustee and the attorney consulting with her concluded Rogoff had a valid claim to $2.3 million of the almost $17 million she was found to have pumped into her short-lived effort to take over the news in the 49th state.
The $17 million itself was a serious rollback from the $23 million her early bankruptcy filings claimed she “loaned” the business to keep it afloat. The bankruptcy trustee ended up recognizing 10 percent of that claim as justifiable and proposes to pay Rogoff $290,120.05.
That’s about 1.3 percent of the $23 million she first claimed or 1.7 percent of the $17 million. On that scale, Boot Country came out nine to 10 times better.
Some others left in the lurch after Rogoff drove what she called the Alaska Dispatch News (ADN.com) into the ditch didn’t do as well. The report concluded the Municipality of Anchorage was due none of the $25,258.14 it claimed to be owed by Rogoff’s defunct company.
Whether one should laugh or cry when something like this happens in life is impossible to say, but Boot Country co-owner Mindy Fisher Leery appeared to be embracing the former.
“Oh my goodness, that is funny,” she messaged from her personal COVID-19 shelter on Friday. “I didn’t know we had been made ‘whole.’
“I am out of town and thus out of the loop. Will pass it by my husband to get his reaction. He’ll probably just laugh….Somehow our boot shop is hanging in there. We are fortunate.”
Some big losers
Others might not take the outcome so well. GCI, a telecommunications company; 501 C LLC, the Midtown company into which Rogoff moved the ADN; M&M Wiring Service Inc., the company preparing a new and never finished printing plant for the ADN; and Arctic Partners LLC, the company that leased Rogoff the building to house that new press, are shorted hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bankruptcy settlement.
Some of them, however, have sued Rogoff and settlements made in those cases might have offset some of the losses.
GCI agreed to let Rogoff leave the ADN’s printing press in the building for minimal rent until she could build a new print plant, but it wasn’t long before Rogoff stopped paying both the rent and the electric bills to run the presses.
GCI sued for $1.4 million in unpaid rent and electric bills in August 2017. The ADN filed for bankruptcy shortly thereafter. Bankruptcy court hearings would later reveal the company’s cash flow was so low it was struggling to cover day-to-day expenses at the time GCI went to court.
The bankruptcy trustees recognized GCI was owed about $2.4 million in total, but proposes to pay the company only about $300,000. The pennies on the dollar returns (see below) apply to nearly all the businesses and individuals caught out when Rogoff decided to abandon her costly Alaska adventure.
It directs contributions to an address in Potomac Falls, Va. not far from the Falls Church, Va., home Rogoff once shared with Rubenstein. Rogoff still owns a house on Campbell Lake in Anchorage, but it is up for sale for $3.2 million, about twice its assessed valuation.
It is described as a “classic mansion.” There is no mention of its history. Former President Barak Obama strolled the dock there with Rogoff in 2015 to look at her single-engine floatplane. He was advised not to take a flight.
A year later, Rogoff – an amateur pilot – was at the controls of the aircraft when it hit a Kenai Peninsula evergreen tree. The plane plummetted into Halibut Cove and Rogoff somehow miraculously survived.
Rogoff is reported to now be splitting time between Boston, where a daughter lives, and the United Kingdom, where her Linked-in profile says she founded and co-chairs a company called C Change Arctic Ltd.
Her entrepreneurial spirit appears undeterred by the very big, very public business failure in Anchorage.
C Change’s website says it is “dedicated to those infrastructure initiatives in the Arctic and near-Arctic region which can develop the region’s full economic potential and generate attractive returns while protecting and promoting the unique natural environment of the region.”
The website for the Delaware-registered company makes no mention of Rogoff but lists an Anchorage phone number and post office box as its contact. The P.O. box is linked to John Tichotsky, a one-time economic adviser to former Gov. Bill Walker.
Walker and Rogoff are good friends. Tichotsky has recently been pushing a project to build new support services for cargo aircraft at Anchorage’s international airport. In a November story about that project, Alaska Public Media noted C Change managing partner Russell Read is the former chief investment officer for the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation.
He served there from 2016 to 2018 before moving to a job with MSCI, formerly Morgan Stanely Capital Investment, in London. His Linked-in profile says he joined C Change in November 2019.
What Rogoff’s day-to-day role in the company is unclear. Before she bought the Anchorage Daily News, she owned the Alaska Dispatch, an internet news service. Employees who worked there say it ran best when Rogoff was absent, which was most of the time.
Dispatch co-founder and editor Tony Hopfinger ran the editorial side of the business basis and served as the de facto publisher in Rogoff’s sometimes long absences. ((In the interest of full disclosure, the author was a Dispatch employee and friend of Rogoff’s.)
Rogoff and Hopfinger were in the Dispatch years the best of friends. That lasted until they weren’t. After he helped her convince McClatchy to sell the ADN to the Dispatch, she promised him $1 million for his old company and famously wrote out a sales contract on a cocktail napkin.
The $1 million was to be paid in installments of $100,000 per year. Rogoff made one payment before she and Hopfinger had a falling out over her management of the already failing Alaska Dispatch News newspaper.
Rogoff told Hopfinger there would be no more payments. He sued and took the napkin to court. In November 2018, an Anchorage jury told Rogoff to pay up. She threatened to appeal but a settlement between the parties was eventually reached.
Hopfinger said the terms of that settlement prohibit him from disclosing how much he was paid, but he appears to have done better than those who did business with Rogoff only to get caught up in the bankruptcy.