When it comes to the balance sheet of the Alaska Dispatch News, there is the obvious: Alice Rogoff, owner of the Dispatch, is married to one of the richest men in the America, and yet she cannot seem to pay her bills.
Nobody is talking about the “D word.” As in David Rubenstein. The person who would be most interested in bailing out the mother of his three children.
As founder of the Carlyle Group, he was a couple of years ago ranked at 500th among the world’s billionaires, give or take a few royals. The East Coast billionaire has been a genius when it comes to making money. He is a self-made man with a remarkable life story.
He’s also a philanthropist. He purchased the last privately owned copy of the Magna Carta in North America. He funded the restoration of the Washington Monument. As he turns 68 next week, his net worth sits at $2.7 billion.
Rubenstein is in the global private equity investment business. He knows how to leverage investments, take calculated risks, and buy and sell at the right time. Either that or he’s very, very lucky.
His wife does her own thing in Alaska as she has for the better part of two decades. She started a Native art gallery in New York City, and another in Anchorage, funded by the State. They both closed. She learned to fly, and wrecked her planes. She bought controlling shares in a news website and then purchased the largest daily newspaper in Alaska, the 68-year-old Anchorage Daily News.
By all accounts, the newspaper, now called the Dispatch, is now foundering under high operating costs, unbusinesslike decisions, and an industry that is on the ropes. In 2015, she told a Chamber of Commerce crowd in Anchorage that if the people in the room wanted better news coverage, then they should pony up and buy ads, because ads pay for personnel. Therefore, the responsibility for her success was all on them — business leaders of Alaska.
Business leaders did not bite. They didn’t see it in their best interest to buy ads.
This year, Rogoff announced that the paywall that she had taken down early on (which prevent people from reading without paying) would have to go back up because she has a payroll to make.
Then the Saturday edition went away.
Meanwhile, she is in court defending against her former business partner, Tony Hopfinger, who says she owes him the better part of a million bucks for his share of the news empire they built with her money. The contract between the two was written on a napkin.
The rumors of its demise may be overstated, but the impending sale of the newspaper is the talk of the town these days. It was supposed to sell by July 15, but then it didn’t. Something fell through.
Pending suitors included a Native corporation and Morris Communications. But so far, nothing seems to pencil out in the return-on-investment napkin calculation.
THE PHILANTHROPIST HUSBAND
Rubenstein is among the first 40 wealthy people who pledged to donate more than half of their wealth to charity or philanthropic causes as part of The Giving Pledge, a group started by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. According to Wikipedia, Rubenstein has:
- Purchased the last privately owned copy of the Magna Carta at Sotheby’s auction house in New York for $21.3 million. It is on loan to the National Archives in Washington D.C.
- Gave $13.5 million to the National Archives for a new gallery and visitor’s center.
- Purchased rare Stone copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th Amendment, and the Constitution. They are on loan to the State Department, the National Archives, the National Constitution Center, the Smithsonian and Mount Vernon.
- Was elected Chairman of the Board of the Kennedy Center.
- Was Vice Chairman of the Board of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York, and chairman of its fundraising drive. A new atrium was named for him.
- Is a board regent for the Smithsonian Institution.
- Donated $4.5 million to the National Zoo for its giant panda reproduction program.
- Donated $7.5 million towards the repair of the cracked Washington Monument.
- Bought a copy of the Bay Psalm Book for $14.1 million, which was the highest price ever paid for a printed book.
- Donated $10 million to Montpelier, to support the renovation of the home of James Madison.
- Gave $18.5 million to the National Park Foundation to expand educational resources, foster public access, and repair and restore the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
- Agreed to cover the cost of elevator upgrades to the Washington Monument.
CAPTAIN OBVIOUS QUESTION
So if his wife is struggling in her business, and there is a preponderance of evidence that she is, why doesn’t Rubenstein come to her aid? What kind of guy would buy the Magna Carta and not the Alaska Dispatch News debt owed by his wife?
Relations between husbands and wives is unknowable to those on the outside, but a reasonable person might ask if all is well in the Rubenstein-Rogoff house, (or houses — Maryland, Nantucket, Colorado, Alaska). It’s not a stretch to arrive at the conclusion that Rubenstein doesn’t bail Rogoff out of her financial situation because he simply doesn’t want to.
After all, he didn’t become a billionaire with a streak of bad business decisions. Rubenstein is a calculated risk taker, an investor, and a savvy business leader. With a curious mind and intellectual leanings, he studies organizational leadership.
In fact, his two-year-old show, “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations,” focuses on leaders and their personal and professional choices, what makes them tick and what makes them get up in the morning.
The second episode of season three features Phil Knight, Nike co-founder and chairman emeritus. Earlier he interviewed David Petraeus, Jamie Dimon and James Gorman, and Bill Gates.
In the strangest turn of events, the private equity investor-philanthropist has become a late-in-life TV journalist, whose chosen beat is the topic of “How to Succeed in Business.” His show has been well received; it’s the talk of the town on Wall Street.
Meanwile, his journalist wife with a penchant for the Arctic, floatplanes, and traditional print journalism, is drowning in newsprint debt and mounting litigation on the Last Frontier.
Quite possibly in Rubenstein’s “personal and professional choice” estimation, the problems at the Alaska Dispatch News are far worse than a crack in the Washington Monument. But at some point, something’s got to give, and it might just be in his best interest to once again be a philanthropist, and help out what is now clearly a not-for-profit enterprise.