FAIRBANKS — The next owner of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner is a foundation with a familiar name but only a short legacy of giving.
The Helen E. Snedden Foundation was created in the wake of Helen Snedden’s death in 2012. She and her husband, Charles W. Snedden, owned the News-Miner for more than 40 years. Charles Snedden died in 1989, and his heirs sold the newspaper in 1992.
Helen Snedden’s death actually led to the creation of two nonprofit foundations: the Snedden Family Foundation and the Helen E. Snedden Foundation. The latter is the larger of the two foundations and is the one in the process of closing on a purchase of the newspaper.
Up to this point, the Helen E. Snedden Foundation has done little to signal the direction its charitable giving will take. Though it was technically created when Helen Snedden died, money she left to sustain the foundation was not cleared for use by the Internal Revenue Service until 2014.
In its first year of existence, the foundation gave to a handful of causes, including the creation of a music park in North Pole, the maintenance of fitness trails in North Pole and a Chena River waterfront park on Slater Street called Snedden Memorial Park.
In January, a fire on Geraghty Street in Fairbanks destroyed an 18-unit apartment building, leaving many of the people who lived there without homes.
Later that year, the foundation added to donations from the rest of the community, giving about $5,000 to the Red Cross to help the affected families get back on their feet.
The foundation has yet to begin fully implementing its vision, however. The foundation has a total endowment of about $9 million, according to Virginia Farmier, the foundation’s sole trustee.
Because the News-Miner’s sale to the Snedden Foundation is still in closing, the financial details — such as how much the foundation will pay current owner Dean Singleton — have not been made official. Farmier said she is not sure whether the final sale price will be made public following the deal’s closure.
“I think it might, but again I would talk to my (legal) counsel before I would release anything like that,” she said.
In general, endowments attempt to spend about 5 percent of their assets each year, which ideally allows them to operate in perpetuity thanks to interest accrual and asset growth.
Farmier said the purchase of the News-Miner would not count toward the foundation’s charitable expenditures for the year, however, since the paper will act more as an ongoing investment than a single charitable gift.
“The purchase is what’s called a program-related investment. Seeing as how (the Sneddens) have been involved in journalism, this is not spending the money in a sense that it’s in the ground ... but investing the money so we can continue the projects we want to do,” Farmier said. “The idea is that it’s going to allow us to expand our mission.”
The News-Miner will be added to the foundations’ list of assets, but it will be contained in a separate limited liability corporation.
The newspaper’s net earnings will go into the foundation’s account, to then be used at the discretion of Farmier.
“We’ll make a decision (about) how much do we invest into the paper to do things we need to do there to maybe fund a journalist student or fund a pressman apprenticeship or something, and then how much are we going to take those funds and do another community park or another project with the library or whatever,” Farmier said.
While the foundation itself will become the new owner of the News-Miner, Farmier is the foundation’s only trustee, so she will in essence operate as the new owner on behalf of the foundation.
During a company-wide announcement to the newspaper’s staff on Monday, Farmier said Charles Snedden always said organizational decision-making is more achievable when a single person is at the helm as opposed to a board or committee.
Farmier said, as of right now, she has no direct plans for the future of the paper.
“I can’t say that day one we’re going to do this and this and this,” she said. “I’m sure as I work on the budgets with people there will be things. It’s a work in progress.”
Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.