Dispatch gets eviction notice from landlord GCI

The announcement of the purchase of the Anchorage Daily News by the Alaska Dispatch in 2014.

Today the landlord for the Alaska Dispatch News press operations on Northway Drive finally had enough of Alice Rogoff.

After trying to get the publisher of the Alaska Dispatch News to pay her full rent due for the better part of two years, GCI has asked the courts to help evict her presses from the premises that the telecommunications company bought from her in April of 2014.

The eviction notice, asking the court for its help removing the newspaper, was filed this morning in State Superior Court. The court has granted a hearing date for Aug. 21.

The history of the relationship between Alaska Dispatch News and GCI is laid out in the complaint, summarized here:

On April 7, 2014, the Dispatch, owned and operated by Rogoff, and GCI entered into a sale agreement, where GCI purchased the property, which allowed Rogoff to purchase the newspaper from McClatchy for $34 million.

The payment also included a purchase by GCI of $500,000 in advertising in the Dispatch.

During the sale and after it was completed, GCI maintains it made it clear it needed the entire building, and that the newspaper would need to vacate as quickly as possible.

But realizing how difficult it was to move a press quickly, GCI signed a short-term lease agreement with Rogoff so she could use 89,000 square feet of the building. The arrangement was for nine months for the office portion of the newspaper and 18 months for the warehouse-press portion, which expired in November, 2015.

To impress upon Rogoff the need for her to remove the Dispatch equipment and offices from the premises, GCI placed a holdover rent premium of 250 percent if she didn’t move at the end of the short-term lease.

The total damages that GCI has laid out in its lawsuit against Rogoff and the Dispatch is $1.39 million, but that increases daily with the unpaid electric bills and doesn’t include the cost of the six warehouses that GCI must rent because it cannot use its own building.

“The whole spirit of the negotiations has been the desire of ADN (the Dispatch) to move, and our desire to expedite that process, so we could use the warehouse, pull together the six warehouse facilities that we are renting into one, and use it as an operations and logistics hub for our company,” said Heather Handyside, spokesperson for GCI.

The fact that the Dispatch has not moved, and is now operating its presses in  building where it has not had a lease since December, has been costly to GCI, which has had to rent the six warehouses, Handyside said.

GCI is also alleging that the Dispatch  said it would not or could not pay a series of unrelated invoices totaling $205,558 for work GCI performed on ADN’s new offices on 31st and C Streets, because of a cash flow shortage.

GCI says that in lieu of payment, it agreed to take advertising credits.

Various extensions of the Northway Drive lease were worked out between the two organizations, as described in the eviction notice, and in November, 2016, Rogoff said she was making progress in removing the printing presses from the premises and would vacate Northway Drive by Dec. 15, 2016.

Rogoff had leased space in a warehouse at 59th and Arctic.

[Read: The summer of Alice Rogoff’s discontent]

That move didn’t happen, as the building she had leased was inadequate for press operations and is now part of a lawsuit, because Rogoff has evidently not paid her contractors for the work performed there.

Meanwhile, at the Northway building, the Dispatch continued to refuse to pay the holdover rent premium, again saying it didn’t have the money.

[Read: Deathwatch for the Dispatch?]

GCI is also citing the problems the Dispatch has had paying other contractors, such as Anchorage Sheet Metal and M&M Wiring, which both filed liens against GCI’s Northway property due to bills not paid by the Dispatch. The M&M Wiring lien was released in March, 2017, while the Anchorage Sheet Metal lien, for $4,775, remains on the property.

M&M Wiring now has a lien against the building where the Dispatch was attempting to move, at 59th and Arctic, for work performed there.

The saga continued in 2017, with GCI attempting to get ADN to pay its bills and vacate the premises. Now, GCI says the Dispatch hasn’t even paid the base rent for July for August, 2017, and hasn’t paid GCI for its portion of the utility bill since February.

The electric bills for the Dispatch have been increasing from $29,000 in February to $46,000 in July, according to the eviction complaint, and GCI has paid Municipal Light and Power for the newspaper’s portion of the electricity. It’s costing GCI about $1,500 in Dispatch utilities per day, according to the court filings.

GCI estimates that it will cost the Dispatch about $1.5 million to remove the presses from the building and restore the area to a usable space for the owner.

BREAKDOWN IN NEGOTIATIONS

According to the court filing, GCI has presented alternatives to Rogoff to continue operations and prevent eviction, but none were acceptable to Rogoff.

GCI says that, at the time of filing, Rogoff owes $1,390,180 in base rent, additional rent, overdue fees, and interest.  Plus utilities.

The GCI complaint (lawsuit) includes a claim against Rogoff, personally, seeking to “pierce the corporate veil” of her several layers of limited liability companies and thus hold her personally liable for the debts and related damages.  Alaska law allows this in cases where it can be shown that a person is abusing the corporate veil in order to commit wrongful acts.

Should GCI be successful in holding Rogoff personally liable, her considerable family wealth and her monthly allowances could be brought into play.

[Read: Craig Medred’s “Bad news for the News”]

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