Rogoff clock is ticking



Cofounder of the Alaska Dispatch, Tony Hopfinger, has a piece of Alaska history written on a cocktail napkin. It’s a piece of old Alaska, when your word was your bond.

Hopfinger needs to keep that napkin safe in a bank vault. Seriously: It’s the contract that Alaska Dispatch now-owner Alice Rogoff signed, saying she’d pay him $1 million for his 5 percent part of the publishing property. It will be in a museum some day, mark our word. Perhaps even in the Newseum in Washington, D.C. if this thing plays out.

In case you missed the first telling of it, Hopfinger filed a complaint against Rogoff for nonpayment on June 15. For him, it’s a lot of money: $1 million, plus some expenses. For her, it’s a nuisance payment.

The bar napkin contract was, it is alleged in the complaint, witnessed by her attorney. If so, it joins others; we found a genuine plethora of bar napkin contracts online that are click-worthy.


ArbitrageAlice Rogoff’s deal-gone-wrong is not yet as screen-worthy as the breakneck speed of Arbitrage, starring Richard Gere, where a deal on a cocktail napkin, a few temporary bridge loans, and some fast talk combine to patch together the fictional hedge fund operator Robert Miller’s finances from a cascading series of catastrophes.

Still, it’s a bit of a thriller. This is the woman who arranged for President Obama to come to Alaska last August to dine with her in her home. She’s kind of a big deal. She served him caribou she killed with her bare hands. And berries she picked with her bare hands. And some other things she made with her bare hands.

She’s the woman who engineered Governor Walker’s victory in 2014, after holding a grudge against Gov. Sean Parnell for not properly acknowledging her role in securing the Kennedy Center for Ted Stevens’ funeral.

She’s the woman who has met with Gov. Walker many times over to convince him to use the Permanent Fund in a totally different way, possibly with some kind of arbitrage play.

Sovereign wealth funds, we have learned, can be subject to all kinds of woes, ranging from corruption to mismanagement. The Alaska Permanent Fund has escaped that fate so far, but there are sharks circling. With David Rubenstein managing a part of the Permanent Fund, there could be a movie in this yet.

The Washington Post found the story intriguing and reported about the  napkin contract a year ago on July 8:

Rogoff had already tried to establish an Alaskan arts television network and was musing about starting a Web site that would focus on underreported stories about the 49th state when she was introduced to the three journalists behind a year-old online news organization named the Alaska Dispatch. An hour of conversation over buffalo burgers, a handshake and an agreement inked on a napkin led to Rogoff’s purchase of 90 percent of the Dispatch in July 2009. “She gave us this amazing opportunity to open offices and hire … a team of people willing to take a risk,” said Tony Hopfinger, who had been running the site out of a spare bedroom. Over the next five years, about 30 reporters and sales staff came onboard.


Alice Rogoff Line DrawAccording to Alaska law, Rogoff has 20 days to respond to the complaint. That gives her until the first week in July, if you exclude weekends. The judge assigned to hear the case is Andrew Guidi, who has a good reputation in Alaska.

Has Alice ever been sued before? Not that we can find. She may need some technical assistance; we’re here to help.

Will Alice counter-sue Hopfinger? She has her reputation to consider. If she doesn’t settle soon, the we can expect a civil trial between now and the election of the next governor, an event for which she has shown keen interest. And there’s still the matter of the still-owed bridge loan that she took out from Northrim Bank, which is no doubt watching her closely.

A lawsuit, with its uncomfortable depositions that would be made public, could throw a wrench in Rogoff’s plans for Arctic domination, or at least legacy.

And there is the question as to whether David Rubenstein, her husband and one of the richest men in the world, will let her hang out there with her first true comeuppance in 64 years? We talked to someone close to the family who said that if he had planned to bail her out, he would have done so by now.

Is the story dead? Not hardly. Word is out the Los Angeles Times is now poking at the coals, and that Bloomberg is blowing on the embers.

Following up, the Washington Post had this. Not the kind of greenhorn legacy that Rogoff was seeking, but good material for a documentary.