FAIRBANKS—A group of siblings from one of Fairbanks’ well-known families is trying to buy Alaska’s largest newspaper as the media company goes into bankruptcy.
Ryan Binkley, Wade Binkley, James Binkley and Kai Binkley Sims, all of Fairbanks, have formed a partnership with Jason Evans, who owns three newspapers in rural Alaska, to purchase the Anchorage-based Alaska Dispatch News.
Ryan Binkley, reached Sunday in Anchorage, said it’s the Binkley siblings’ “first move into the media world.”
They unsuccessfully bid to buy the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner when it went up for sale a few years ago, he said.
The Dispatch is in a “dire financial situation,” Binkley said, and the investment group is lending money to keep the newspaper afloat while the bankruptcy process proceeds.
Binkley hopes to get an expedited timeline from the bankruptcy court.
The investment group took control of operations of the Dispatch — formerly the Anchorage Daily News — on Sunday, according to a written statement provided by Binkley.
The statement described the Dispatch as too important to be allowed to go away.
“We grew up reading the ADN and our actions today are intended to ensure that our grandchildren can do the same,” the investors said in the statement.
Binkley said he is well aware of the challenges faced by newspapers across the country as circulation and advertising revenues continue to decline.
The Dispatch’s bankruptcy filing and the announcement of potential new buyers comes days after the media company was sued by landlord GCI for more than $1 million in unpaid rent for a building housing the paper’s printing press.
Binkley said he has no magical solution to make the Dispatch solvent.
“There is not going to be any silver bullets,” he said. “It is going to take a growth in revenue and a decline in expenses.”
How active the anticipated new owners would be in the day-to-day operations of the newspaper remains to be seen. Binkley declined to discuss specific changes planned at the struggling media company.
“We have to get through bankruptcy first,” he said. “We don’t even own the company yet.”
Binkley, president of his family business, Alaska Riverways Inc. and Gold Dredge 8, has no plans to move to Anchorage, though he expects to be dividing his time between Anchorage and Fairbanks, he said.
Pilot and investor Alice Rogoff purchased the Pulitzer-prize winning Anchorage Daily News from McClatchy newspapers for $34 million in 2014. Rogoff owned a news website — the Alaska Dispatch — at the time and merged the two operations, calling the final product the Alaska Dispatch News.
Rogoff said in a prepared statement the newspaper has been a “labor of love” and her hope is the Dispatch emerges “able to navigate these challenging economic times in a stronger position.”
“I simply ran out of my ability to subsidize this great news product,” said Rogoff, who is married to billionaire financier David Rubenstein.
Evans is president of Rural Energy Enterprises and owner of Alaska Media LLC, based in Anchorage. The company publishes the The Bristol Bay Times and The Dutch Harbor Fisherman; the Homer Tribune; and The Arctic Sounder.
The Binkley siblings and Evans are all lifelong Alaskans. Binkley said he has known Evans for a few years.
Binkley is a 1996 graduate of West Valley High School and also has lived in Bethel and Juneau. He holds a degree in petroleum engineering and is a fourth-generation riverboat captain. His father, John, has served in the Alaska Legislature and made an unsuccessful bid for governor of Alaska in 2006, getting beat in the Republican primary by Sarah Palin.
Evans is an Inupiaq Eskimo who was born and raised in Nome, according to the written statement by the newspaper investors.
Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.