BUT THURSDAY WILL BE TELLING
A court filing by Alaska Dispatch News owner Alice Rogoff details “terms and assumptions” associated with the sale of Alaska’s largest newspaper to the Binkley Company of Fairbanks.
The paper goes on the auction block next Monday morning.
Only one bidder is known at this point — the Binkley Company, headed by Ryan Binkley, his siblings and business partner Jason Evans. Two other groups are rumored to be circling, but whether they will ultimately bid will only be known at the close of business this Thursday.
In the meantime, Sept. 8 will tell media observers a lot about the future of the newspaper.
That’s when the Binkley Company will file details of its up to $1 million loan to Rogoff to keep the newspaper afloat while it undergoes Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
That same $1 million is also the Binkley Company’s opening bid for the newspaper, which was sold to Rogoff by McClatchy Co. three and a half years ago for $34 million.
Any other interested buyers must offer up $1 million cash by then in pre-qualification funds — money that would be held in escrow by Rogoff’s bankruptcy attorney, Cabot Christianson. The funds would be forfeited if the successful bidder didn’t close within three days of bankruptcy court approval. Serious earnest money, indeed.
If another bidder besides the Binkley Company is successful, it would have to pay Binkley some $1 million plus $100,000, and 3 percent of the purchase price, money that would offset the time, trouble and treasure Binkley has gone through to rescue the paper, which was on the verge of complete collapse in mid-August.
Anything above that $1 million opening bid would start at $1.2 million, and then would continue in $100,000 increments.
What is not purchased by the new owner of the Dispatch will likely be placed into a Chapter 7 bankruptcy process and liquidated by the court to partially repay Rogoff’s debts, which are in excess of $20 million.
WHAT ABOUT THE EMPLOYEES?
The 212 employees of the Alaska Dispatch News are understandably nervous. The new owner, whoever it is, is not likely to continue the pattern of losing $5-8 million a year, as Rogoff has done since she purchased the paper.
Through her lawyer, Rogoff has made it clear that any employees the new owner doesn’t want to continue employing (or employees who don’t want to continue) will be covered by her existing severance policies, and that the buyer will pay the payroll, health insurance and other benefits, as well as the severance pay, “until such time as all of Debtor’s employees have either become Buyer’s employees or have been paid their severance pay.”
For an employee who has worked at the newspaper for 20+ years, that’s six weeks of severance pay. Between 10-20 years, the severance pay is four weeks.
Some employees have already started the search for other work, such as executive vice president Margy Johnson, who was spotted at a Gov. Bill Walker campaign fundraiser on Tuesday — a fundraiser that she co-hosted.
WHAT ABOUT GCI PRESS?
GCI has “no interest whatsoever in the having the press remain at the Northway location for more than a few months,” according to Rogoff’s bankruptcy attorney.
Rogoff has personally guaranteed the cost of removing the press, which is estimated to be a $1.2 million job.
But if Alaska Dispatch News is converted from a Chapter 11 to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the press could become part of that auction, even while the Binkley Company is using it to print the paper.
Binkley has made arrangements to continue printing at GCI’s Northway location for several months.
Meanwhile, at 5900 Arctic Blvd., things are still a mess. Rogoff began installing presses in space she leased from Arctic Partners, but that construction came to a halt when she stopped paying her bills at the beginning of 2017.
“That construction was beset with problems. The installation of the press has not been completed and there is no path towards that press ever working,” according to her attorney.
The building is now part of separate-but-related litigation. M&M Wiring has a lien on the building because the work performed there for the tenant, Rogoff, has not been paid in full, and the electrical company is seeking compensation from the building’s landlord. It’s just one of several lawsuits now under way concerning Rogoff’s Dispatch dealings.