Pressures mount on owner of Alaska Dispatch News

For Alaska Dispatch News owner and publisher Alice Rogoff, evidence of extreme financial stress continues to accumulate. Legal filings now raise the question of whether Northrim Bank could end up the owner of Alaska’s largest newspaper.

A review of recent financial filings in the Anchorage Recording District shows that:

In April, Rogoff assigned her ownership interests in her publishing company, AK Publishing LLC (100% owner of Alaska Dispatch News LLC) in the event of default to Northrim Bank, her lender.

This appears to be putting the entire newspaper up for collateral.

The loan documents are not public, but it is a safe bet that the move was connected to either new cash flow financing or the restructuring of her older loan or loans.

In other words, it looks like Northrim Bank no longer views her enterprise to be creditworthy in its own right and is now moving to shore up its collateral in the event of foreclosure or bankruptcy.

For likely the same reasons, Northrim Bank also recorded a security interest in Rogoff’s income stream (allowance) from her marital agreement with billionaire David Rubenstein.

The personal financial details of Alice Rogoff was information her lawyers tried to suppress from open court proceedings during the July 12 oral arguments in a lawsuit filed against Rogoff by former her business partner, Tony Hopfinger. Rogoff’s attorneys attempted to have the media removed from the courtroom, as they said her personal finances could become a topic of discussion during the preliminary hearing. Judge Andrew Guidi refused to remove reporters observing the trial, which will continue in March.

[Read: Rogoff vs. Reporters: Outtakes from oral arguments]

Details of the marital income agreement are not publicly available, but legal records indicate that Northrim is reaching deeply into Rogoff’s personal assets and income streams in connection with her debt.

All of this squares with recent litigation over Rogoff  not paying important bills.

“STOP LENDING”: Rogoff’s former electrical contractor, M&M Wiring Service, has filed in the Anchorage Recording District a “Notice to Stop Lending” against various Rogoff publishing entities.

The May, 2017 filing puts Northrim on notice that if it advances any further funding on the project, it will be liable to the contractor unless the funds go toward paying off the claim — in this case an unpaid bill in the neighborhood of $459,000 to $509,000.

M&M in January was dismissed from the job of wiring the 59th and Arctic building that the Alaska Dispatch News is trying to move to, and where it has been installing a couple of large presses. M&M had helped dismantle one of the presses at the now-GCI building.

Rogoff hired another company — one to which she has other financial connections — to continue the electrical work at 59th and Arctic, but the trail of permitting grows cold at the end of March.

About half of the total bill to M&M has been paid, and the unpaid hundreds of thousands are now part of legal proceedings in which M&M has a lien on the building owned by Arctic Partners.

A separate lien from Precision Maintenance and Fabrication says Rogoff owes $160,000 for work evidently performed at the existing press location at the old Anchorage Daily News building. That building is now owned by GCI, but Rogoff’s press remains there.

STOP WORK: All construction work at the 59th and Arctic location came to a screeching halt on March 24. The only work that continued was when press people were in the building cleaning the presses — without a certificate of occupancy.

Here are some of the challenges the newspaper faces in the 59th and Arctic location:

  • Contractors have been put on ice while owner Alice Rogoff catches up with her bills.
  • M&M is suing Rogoff for hundreds of thousands in unpaid bills from 2016.
  • Her marital allowance seems not enough to keep up with the investments she must make to fund the operations and manage the move out of the GCI building to 59th and Arctic.
  • Without major retrofitting, the roof may not be able to support the air handling systems needed.
  • The gasline to the building is likely inadequate.
  • The 8-inch water main is too small.
  • It will need an expensive sprinkler system.
  • The facility is too small to store many rolls of newsprint on site.
  • Rogoff will either need to build a warehouse for paper on site, or arrange for storage at another location.
  • The parking lot is not large enough to meet city standards.
  • The location alongside the train tracks may be an ongoing problem for motion-sensitive press operations.
  • A big question is: Is this building suitable or has she erred fatally in signing 10-year leases and incurring debt to make it workable?

‘GO FUND ME’ FOR DISPATCH NEWS DEBT

With the bills and lawsuits piling on, is it time for a crowd-funding campaign to help retire the news mogul’s debt? Her “marital asset stream” seems insufficient to staunch the hemorrhaging of cash, and now it is encumbered by her bank.

Without an infusion of cash, and soon, it’s anyone’s guess how much longer the newspaper will continue to land on subscribers’ doorsteps.

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