Alaska’s Biggest Newspaper Files for Bankruptcy

ANCHORAGE (CN) – The publisher of Alaska Dispatch News filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Saturday in the wake of last week’s eviction notice from the cable company renting space for the paper’s only working printing press.

GCI, which also owns local CBS affiliate KTVA-11, filed eviction papers in state court against the Alaska Dispatch News, AK Publishing LLC and publisher Alice Rogoff, citing $1.4 million in unpaid rent and utilities as well as another $1 million in damages. Rogoff sold the warehouse in question to GCI in 2014 when she purchased the Anchorage Daily News from McClatchy.

Rogoff announced the bankruptcy in a story and statement posted in the Dispatch News late Saturday evening. “This is truly a bittersweet moment for me,” Rogoff said.

“I think by now that most of you know owning this news organization has been a labor of love for me. We’ve worked hard to help illuminate the issues of our day and provide a platform for points of view from across Alaska. Yet like newspapers everywhere, the struggle to make ends meet financially eventually caught up with us. I simply ran out of my ability to subsidize this great news product,” she said.

Along with filing for Chapter 11 protection, Dispatch News plans to ask the bankruptcy court to allow it to borrow up to $1 million in working capital from potential buyers of the paper, and for approval to sell the newspaper as a whole to that buyer, according to Cabot Christianson, a bankruptcy attorney representing the newspaper.

Rogoff also laid out a transition plan and announced potential new owners for the newspaper: Fairbanks natives and siblings Ryan, Wade and James Binkley and Kai Binkley Sims, who own several tourism companies, including Riverboat Discovery. The Binkleys’ father John is a former state senator and current president of Cruise Lines International Association.

The family will be joined by Alaska Inupiaq Native and Nome resident Jason Evans, president of Rural Energy Enterprises and owner of Alaska Media LLC which publishes three rural Alaska newspapers.

Ryan Binkley and Evans took over daily Dispatch News operations on Sunday and will continue in that role through the conclusion of bankruptcy proceedings. Former Anchorage Daily News publisher Jerry Grilly, who retired as president and CEO of the Denver Post in 2012, is a consultant to the group, according to a statement issued by Ryan Binkley.

“We are a group of lifelong Alaskans who have come together to save the ADN during this interim time,” according to the statement. “At the same time the paper has filed for bankruptcy protection, we’ve entered an agreement to purchase the ADN and immediately take control of the operations of the paper.”

The interim publishers say they came together because the newspaper is too important to the city of Anchorage and to the state of Alaska.

“Alaska deserves and needs a robust and healthy paper of record as much as it needs any other public utility or infrastructure, particularly in these uncertain times. We grew up reading the ADN and our actions are intended to ensure that our grandchildren can do the same,” Ryan Binkley and Evans stated.

Rogoff, 63, a business executive turned publisher, was CFO for U.S. News and World Report for 10 years, and helped The Washington Post create its online edition. She was a special assistant to the director of the Office of Management and Budget in the last two years of the Carter administration.

She is also the wife of hedge fund billionaire David Rubenstein, managing director of the Carlyle Group. She became majority owner of the online only news site Alaska Dispatch in 2008 before purchasing the Anchorage Daily News and merging the two in 2014.

The newspaper lists assets of $10 million to $50 million and liabilities of between $1 million and $10 million.

 

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