ANCHORAGE (KTUU) Alaska Dispatch News publisher Alice Rogoff faced creditors Thursday in Anchorage as a bankruptcy court prepares to auction Alaska’s largest newspaper to the highest bidder.
The Binkley family of Fairbanks has loaned the Dispatch money to stay afloat and hopes to buy the paper outright on Monday. At least one other group has been in Anchorage performing “due diligence” research in preparation for a potential bid, said Dispatch attorney Cabot Christianson.
Canadian newspaper executive Steve Malkowich, who is linked to the Alberta Newspaper Group, has been working with an Anchorage attorney on the Dispatch review, Christianson said.
As of 2013, Alberta Newspaper Group was run by F. David Radler, the Globe and Mail reported at the time.
Radler was sentenced to 29 months in prison for his role in a fraud scheme with former business partner Conrad Black. Radler’s current role in the Alberta Newspaper Group, if any, is unclear. Officials at the business did not return calls Thursday.
The ADN is in dire financial trouble following Rogoff’s 2014 purchase of the paper for $19 million. The company is losing about $18,000 a day, according to bankruptcy filings.
The jobs of more than 200 employees are at stake, with the Dispatch piling a mountain of unpaid debt to creditors. Some of those businesses appeared at the Thursday hearing where, for the first time in the proceedings, they were able to directly question Rogoff.
Why didn’t the newspaper pay November invoices, asked the owner of M&M Wiring, a contractor owed nearly half a million dollars for work related to a failed effort to establish a working printing press?
“Because they are in dispute,” Rogoff replied. She also said she would not be willing to pay the contractor’s attorney fees. Others asked about the paper's purchase of a drone, day-to-day operations and the timing of the financial collapse.
A dinner host to President Barack Obama during his 2015 Alaska visit and the wife of billionaire financier and philanthropist David Rubenstein, Rogoff refused to answer questions about the terms of a marital settlement agreement that she has used to fund the paper.
“I’d rather not,” she said. “That’s private.”
Rogoff is listed as an ADN creditor as well, reporting that she sunk more than $12 million in an attempt to keep the paper arriving on doorsteps. She declined to talk to a KTUU reporter following the hearing.
The Dispatch attorney said he doesn’t know if Malkowich’s company or others will bid on the paper Monday. Under “ground rules” proposed by Christianson, the bidding would start at $1.2 million, with any subsequent bids made in at least $100,000 increments.
Other than the activity by Malkowich, Christianson said he didn’t know details of the company that has been doing due diligence in advance of a potential bid. He said it is based in Vancouver and appeared to be the same group that – like the Binkleys – previously expressed interest in buying the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Former Daily News and Dispatch reporter Craig Medred wrote this week that Roland McBride of Horizon Publications also has been looking into the Dispatch ahead of the auction. McBride created two limited liability newspaper publishing companies in Alaska in 2015, according to state Division of Corporations records.
“We assume that there will be other bidders,” said Ryan Binkley, son of former gubernatorial candidate John Binkley. “We knew all along that was a possibility and we’re hearing now that someone else has conducted some due diligence and rightly so.”
Kyle Hopkins is a former Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Dispatch News reporter.