JUDGE’S ORDER ALLOWS ACCESS TO HER DIVORCE SETTLEMENT
The next formal deposition of former Alaska Dispatch News publisher Alice Rogoff is scheduled for Feb. 21 in Anchorage.
For Rogoff, these court dates come and go. She is often not available, so one wouldn’t wish to schedule one’s hair appointments around them.
Rogoff’s legal deadlines are routinely rescheduled to accommodate the jet-setter’s busy life, and her bankruptcy lawyers stay busy in Alaska’s court system, piling up the billable hours to keep her treasure whole and to delay proceedings.
Last month, Rogoff was lecturing in England on opportunities in the Arctic. She’s been spotted house hunting in greater Boston, where she is attaching herself to a Harvard Arctic initiative.
In late December, when the ink was barely dry on her divorce from billionaire David Rubenstein, she formed a new corporation in Delaware called Arctic Today, and is publishing online with that entity, which is a mirror image of company she created in 2016, ArcticNow. It even has the same staff as ArcticNow.
WAIT … WHAAAT?
In the tangle of her various Alaska Dispatch News eviction, Chapter 11 reorganization, and Chapter 7 liquidation, Rogoff tucked the modest web publishing entity www.arcticnow.com into her Rogoff portfolio and took it with her.
No one seem to care about the fate of ArcticNow at the time, as it didn’t seem to be worth the URL to which it was assigned. Dozens of journalists and as many printers and advertising staff at her dying newspaper were just hoping to hang a bit longer at an entity that had a chance of supporting them in the sunset years of the newspaper industry.
With ArcticNow in her back pocket, Rogoff let her multiple “Rogoff Entities” default on their debts. She had run through more than $34 million in three years.
Although she likely had funds (or through divorce from the billionaire would soon have the funds) to pay off the millions of dollars in Alaska Dispatch News bills, she had chose to renege. She now wanted to preserve cash for future operations and lifestyle.
Rogoff also decided last fall to become a creditor of her own bankrupt companies, saying they owe her $16.6 million, and that she was to be the first in line for payment.
However, she was an outlier creditor with a special interest. As other creditors tried to pierce the barrier between her personal finance and her company’s debts, she acted as a contrary creditor and fought that maneuver: She definitely didn’t want Alice Rogoff’s personal finances to be exposed in order to pay her, Alice Rogoff, the creditor, or anyone else.
BREAKDOWN OF THE SHELL COMPANIES
Rogoff Entities are shell limited liability corporations Rogoff set up in Alaska to move money around.
In one corporation, she deposited funds she received apparently from a pre-divorce marital agreement she had with her now-ex-husband Rubenstein.
[The word “apparently” must be used because her personal finances have been kept off-limits during bankruptcy proceedings, something creditors are trying to change, and her ex-husband is trying to preserve.]
That marital agreement remains a secret, as are the terms of her Dec. 8, 2017 divorce and the cash-out with Rubenstein.
From that company, AK Publishing, she paid the bills — payroll, paper, ink, etc. — of the Alaska Dispatch News, which was also run as its own limited liability corporation.
At times, she ran things from AK Publishing, signing contracts and running up bills, and at other times bills were paid by the ADN.
AK Publishing was owned by yet another company she had set up in 2009, “The Moon and the Stars LLC.”
Alaska Dispatch News was owned by AK Publishing LLC.
Confused? Join the club, many were. Money went every which way for the three years she ran the newspaper.
Rogoff also paid personal bills with corporation money in such a way that things became intermingled, and now disputes have arisen about how to keep her private matters private when they are clearly listed among business matters that creditors are entitled to see.
The newspaper was soon racing through what was said to to be over $500,000 a month, and Rogoff didn’t have the funds to move her press operations out of the building she had sold to GCI in accordance with the sale agreement.
A year ago in February, her newspaper simply stopped paying the rent and utilities to GCI. She stopped returning the landlord’s phone calls. She stopped paying contractors and wouldn’t take their calls.
By August, 2017, three years after she bought the Anchorage Daily News and renamed it Alaska Dispatch News, GCI filed papers to evict her newspaper from its East Anchorage location.
That event left her little choice but to file bankruptcy: ADN needed protection from its creditors.
Last August, at her request, the Binkley Company rode in on a white horse and saved the newspaper, one day before it was unable to make payroll to its carriers. Without newspaper delivery labor, she would have had to stop the presses. The Binkley family made the payments, and more payments after that, and the crisis was averted with the cash infusions that kept coming.
In a few fast-paced legal weeks, the paper was transferred to the Binkley family’s ownership, costing them an initial $1 million that was needed to keep the ADN alive, and more in the weeks thereafter.
But the matter of the overdue rent and utility bills was still Rogoff’s problem, as she had made a personal guarantee.
Last week, a judge in Anchorage approved the settlement between Rogoff and GCI for $1.5 million that Rogoff will pay GCI to remove the press. The settlement does not include rent and utilities that she still owes.
One of the companies that got stiffed was Arctic Partners, the entity that owns the old warehouse on Arctic Blvd, where Rogoff decided to move her entire newspaper operations. It sits empty along the railroad tracks.
She signed a 10-year lease, began extensive improvements totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then stopped paying the contractors and stopped paying the $40,000-plus a month in rent to Arctic Partners.
While the deposition scheduled for Feb. 21 would allow Arctic Partners to question her personally and require her to speak directly to her personal finances, her divorce settlement, and whether she even had the money to give Arctic Partners the personal guarantee she made, there is a looming problem: Transfer fraud.
Plaintiffs will be interested to know how she moved personal and business money around in the months leading up to bankruptcy. Transfer fraud occurs when someone or some entity that is clearly heading to insolvency moves money to protect it from creditors.
Rogoff’s attorneys objected to the questioning and moved to make off-limits her personal assets, her divorce settlement, and her marital settlement. However, the judge has ruled against Rogoff’s attorney and will allow these topics to be probed.
In other words, the judge has given Arctic Partners permission to rip the seal off her divorce settlement and all her other personal financial matters. This is hugely significant.
‘PAY US FOR WHAT WE DO’
In January of 2017, Rogoff wrote to readers of the ADN that changes were ahead for the newspaper, including the need for paid online subscriptions and the elimination of the Saturday print edition. But not to worry, the newspaper would be alive and well for “generations to come,” she wrote.
Fast forward to January of 2018, Rogoff is writing a similarly cadenced letter to visitors of her newly relaunched ArcticToday, describing her ambitions for the Arctic media empire she has launched and declaring she wishes to be paid for her work:
We are pleased to bring you this new, expanded platform for our Arctic coverage. You’ve known us as Arctic Now, a circumpolar news partnership.
Now we’re adding more news, opinions, and features from around the circumpolar region — and we’re renaming ourselves “ArcticToday.”
We want these changes to signal our renewed commitment to bringing this region to light for you.
“ArcticToday” is a name we find better-suited to explaining our mission. Yes, we are a news organization. And yes, we aim to share vital and stimulating news of the region, for the region and as a region. Yet as many of you know, we are also hoping to connect readers — those scattered all around the world — who are attuned enough to the consequences of climate change to understand that the Arctic is of vital importance to them and to our changing planet.
From China to Singapore, observers in countries far from the Arctic understand that a new shipping route across the North Pole will soon completely upend the world’s maritime commercial patterns. Others understand that a key to future food security in a changing world will be sources of protein from the Arctic Ocean.
And of course, today’s Arctic residents know their coastlines are becoming geo-politically significant, as Arctic defense interests sharpen their focus on the region, while also working to avoid conflict in the far North. Then there is what is termed the “economic Arctic” — a rapidly growing cluster of commodity and renewable energy assets that the world to the south finds increasingly attractive. And yet accessing those natural resources in the Arctic — particularly fossil fuels or mining sites — is ever more controversial. And many social challenges — including ensuring the sovereignty of the region’s indigenous peoples — must be addressed as the Arctic’s economies develop. Combined with the need for massive infrastructure building north of the Arctic Circle, all these topics will be followed with interest by the world’s most forward-thinking leaders.
We are delighted to know that you share our deep interest and affection for our Earth’s High North, a place of intrigue and interest for centuries that all of us are together experiencing through the new lens of rapid — and alarming — climate change.
But just as importantly, as Arctic residents, we know — and want to share with the rest of our world to the south — that there are also opportunities from this rapid change. While the perils of rapid sea ice melt and warming are obvious, the upside of this evolution is more subtle. And exciting to contemplate.
In short, we aim to cover it all, and more — with travel features, lifestyle content, and all the texture of a northern life that is foreign to most of the world to the south.
You’ll be noticing something else about us: We’re going to try hard to persuade you to become a paying subscriber.
As with so many news sites, the only way we can continue as a business is to ask you, the reader, to pay us for what we do. [Sentences have been underlined by Must Read Alaska].
We share with you a commitment to understanding the Arctic, so as we expand what we produce, we aim for you to see its value.
Please take me up on this request: Let us know how you find our coverage. Tell us what more or different you’d like from us. As a new and growing organization, we want to be responsive to your needs and perceptions. Our entire team is looking forward to hearing from you about our coverage.
You can find a variety of ways to reach us at our contact page, or you can simply email email@example.com. If you have a story or opinion you’d like to share with our readers, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll hear back from someone on our team promptly.
We look forward to learning more about all of this along with you.
Please do stay in touch.
Alice Rogoff, Publisher
ARCTICNOW BECOMES ARCTICTODAY, IN DELAWARE
ArcticNow was largely a content curation site that Rogoff launched in November of 2016, two months before she stopped paying rent for the Alaska Dispatch News.
ArcticNow plucked top stories from publications around the north where Rogoff had relationships with other publishers.
The Alaska Dispatch News was one of those “partner” organizations last year. In fact, it was the lead partner.
This year, her ArcticToday partner list does not include the ADN, but Rogoff has contributions from Reuters, and she appears to have at least two people on payroll. Her company is a Delaware corporation.
People form corporations in Delaware because of the state’s business-friendly laws. A company does not need to be in Delaware to be a Delaware corporation. Delaware doesn’t charge state corporate income tax for companies that are formed in Delaware but do not conduct business there.
Delaware also has a special court for businesses that keep litigation moving, rather than being bogged down behind the many non-business cases also competing for court time. This means legal disputes can be resolved more quickly, although that might not be Rogoff’s prime motivator.
With no advertisers yet, an editor in New York, and a hungry freelance writer or two, Rogoff is also pitching a $99 subscription/membership to readers of her relaunched news site, as recently as today on Facebook:
MONETIZING IS THE NEW BLACK
The platform that ArcticToday is built on is designed for sponsored content, for web sites that charge people money to have their stories featured, and that charge readers to read them.
It might be a combination that works for Rogoff, who at 66 has only a few reinvention plays left. This one is repurposing her reputation not just as the Alaska expert, but as a circumpolar thought leader with a communications platform designed to reach millions across the northern globe.
But will the ArcticToday publisher show up at the deposition on Feb. 21, when Arctic Partners will be allowed by the judge to probe her personal accounts and money transfers leading up to her defunct companies’ bankruptcies?
It’s not something that ArcticToday will be reporting on any time soon.
In the meantime, any prospective ArcticToday creditors may wish to take note.