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8/12/2017
Publisher of Alaska Dispatch News sued for unpaid rent

By RACHEL D’ORO
Associated Press

ANCHORAGE — The publisher of Alaska’s largest newspaper is being sued over nearly $1.4 million in unpaid rent and other fees on the paper’s former headquarters, which still houses the printing press.

The civil lawsuit filed Friday in Anchorage by Alaska cable company GCI is the latest legal battle for Alaska Dispatch News publisher Alice Rogoff, wife of billionaire financier David Rubenstein. Rogoff backed a news website to compete with the Anchorage Daily News before buying the newspaper for $34 million in 2014. She renamed the print publication the Alaska Dispatch News.

GCI purchased the newspaper’s former building around the same time, and the newspaper offices moved to another Anchorage location.

Rogoff didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit, which also names Alaska Dispatch News LLC and AK Publishing LLC. But KTUU reported that Rogoff issued a written statement Friday afternoon, saying GCI’s legal action is “extremely unfortunate” and events leading to that point have been “extremely complex.” Rogoff said there was never any bad faith on the part of the newspaper, adding that the goal has always been to keep the newspaper alive and “robust for the sake of our readers and the community.”

“Our goal remains unchanged and we are in active discussions toward that end,” Rogoff said. “Until the discussions are concluded, we are unable to provide any details. Please know that business disputes arise from many causes and are never one-sided.”

GCI seeks more than $1 million in damages and eviction of the printing equipment.

The company says in its 14-page lawsuit that the original agreement called for the defendants to vacate the warehouse nearly two years ago. But it worked with the newspaper by renegotiating leases and accepting advertising credits in some cases. That agreement called for a holdover rent equal to 250 percent of the base rent.

The lawsuit says defendants breached their contract with GCI in several ways, including failure to make payments as required since mid-December, citing cash flow problems, as well as failing to vacate GCI’s warehouse premises.

GCI spokeswoman Heather Handyside said the company had no choice but to seek legal action after efforts to be supportive and patient in finding a resolution.

“This is just a reflection of our feeling that we have exhausted all of our options,” she said. “We don’t believe we really have any other options left than to ask the court to help us pursue this.”

Rogoff is facing other legal battles. They include a lawsuit filed by the Alaska Dispatch’s co-founder, who is suing Rogoff over a deal he claims she signed on a napkin agreeing to pay her former business partner $100,000 at the end of each calendar year, beginning in 2014, according to Anchorage television station KTUU.

The newspaper also faces two other lawsuits alleging nonpayment of bills, the TV station reported.

One filed by M&M Wiring Service Inc., says the newspaper failed to pay more than $500,000 in electrical work. The other lawsuit was filed by Catalyst Paper Co., which names the sole defendant as Anchorage Daily News, Inc., and alleges about $50,000 is past due.

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Follow Rachel D’Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro