(3-minute read) ROGUE PUBLISHER LOSES AGAIN IN COURT
A judge has ruled that former Alaska Dispatch News publisher Alice Rogoff must pay 75 percent of her former business partner’s legal fees, after he won in court a $852,752 judgment against her for a contract written on a bar napkin that was signed by the former newspaper owner in 2014.
Hopfinger is entitled to $191,334 in attorney fees, Judge Andrew Guidi wrote in a decision filed today.
“The facts are fairly simple,” the judge started in his two-page decision.
Rogoff had tried to convince the court to allow her to pay just 15 percent of Hopfinger’s legal fees, or $28,749.66.
But Guidi, in his writing, appeared incredulous.
He said the paltry sum could not be taken seriously “as it is literally invented out of thin air. And its credibility is not enhanced by the feigned precision of carrying the figure out two decimal places. Rogoff’s rationale appears to be that, in spite of the amount of the jury’s verdict and the language of Rule 68 Hopfinger did not prevail. In the court’s view, this is entirely incorrect.”
“Rogoff does find several minor instances in which the fees charged can be nitpicked,” the judge allowed, “but Rogoff doesn’t challenge the reasonableness of the hourly rates nor suggest that the overall amount billed for over two years of litigation and a two-week trial is unreasonable.”
Hopfinger and his former partner Amanda Coyne started the online news organization Alaska Dispatch News. They brought Rogoff in as an investor and majority owner. Coyne left, and Hopfinger stayed on until the relationship between he and Rogoff soured, as she purchased the Anchorage Daily News and merged the operations, against the advice of Hopfinger.
When he wanted out, he could never pin her down on the terms of the agreement for her to buy his share, until during one spat between them, she wrote a contract offering him $1 million over 10 yearly payments.
The contract was written in her own hand on a paper napkin. She told Hopfinger to “show this to the judge if I don’t ever pay you.”
Hopfinger did so after she stop making payments after the first $100,000 installment.
Rogoff has since filed for bankruptcy, sold the entire operation to the current owners of the Anchorage Daily News, and has continued publishing with a new online entity she calls Arctic Today.
Hopfinger hasn’t quite been made whole. He’s suffered a great deal of opportunity cost since he first filed a lawsuit against her in 2016. He likely had tens of thousands of dollars in attorneys fees that he paid for before the lawsuit was filed, and since the lawsuit was concluded, and these could reasonably add up to $90,000. Those are fees he can’t recover from Rogoff.
And now, he’ll be on the hook for 25 percent of the legal fees that grew once the lawsuit was filed. All those will eat into the $852,752 that he won in the judgment.
Rogoff has had other court cases, and she’s lost and settled most of them.
She settled with GCI for $1.5 million in back rent that her collapsed media empire owed to him, and she settled with Arctic Partners for an unknown amount.
She still is fighting with M&M Wiring over money the company claims she owes for electrical work done on behalf of her and the now bankrupt news organization.
Other companies have simply walked away, knowing it would cost more to recover their outstanding receivables than they would ever be likely to get from her.
Rogoff’s own legal fees fighting Hopfinger are estimated to be twice or three times what he spent, which could mean that she’s spent $650,000 or more fighting to not pay the $852,257 the court says she clearly owes Hopfinger. Her other court fees are estimated to reach more than $1 million.
Even the judge appeared irritated that she would “nitpick” some of Hopfinger’s legal bills, considering her vast wealth and influence.