Sealaska releases preliminary figures on 2000 losses

Posted: Sunday, February 25, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Officials of Sealaska Corp. told shareholders Friday it lost $90 million to $120 million last year, according to a shareholder who attended a company meeting.

Tim Ackerman, a Juneau harbor officer and one of Sealaska's approximately 16,000 shareholders, said Sealaska's board chairman, state Rep. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, made the announcement at Juneau's Centennial Hall.

Audited balance sheets won't be available until late March and the corporation won't discuss its finances with the media until then, said Ross Soboleff, spokesman for the Juneau-based regional Native corporation.

Sealaska blamed the red ink on bad investments in the precision plastics and limestone mining industries, and a troubled year on Wall Street, Ackerman said.

The announcement follows a change in Sealaska's top management. At a meeting Friday afternoon, the board of directors appointed Sealaska general counsel Chris E. McNeil Jr. as chief executive, Soboleff said.

McNeil, a Tlingit who was born in Juneau, replaces Robert W. Loescher, who stepped down in January after a 27-year career at Sealaska, including the last three as chief executive. Loescher, who is battling health problems, resigned Jan. 30, one month after warning shareholders to expect big losses for 2000 and shortly after steering Sealaska into new investments in wireless technology and Indian gaming.

''We are implementing an immediate action plan to correct the financial situation, by selling off or writing down unproductive assets,'' wrote Loescher in a shareholder newsletter mailed out in December.

Sealaska is trying to sell TriQuest, a plastics company it owns that experienced ''heavy losses'' last year, the newsletter stated. It also wants to unload SeaCal, a limestone mine on Prince of Wales Island. Sealaska hoped to sell limestone to Pacific Rim customers but the Asian financial crisis did not bode well for the company. In its 1999 annual report, Sealaska said the limestone subsidiary recorded a net loss of $876,000.

Sealaska has not explained what triggered Loescher's departure. Neither a press release issued at the time he stepped down nor a recent letter from Kookesh to shareholders explained whether Loescher volunteered his resignation or was forced out.

The Juneau regional corporation, established by Congress under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, has long been considered one of the most successful of Alaska's Native companies. Endowed with more than 180,000 acres of prime timberland, the company has shared more than $223 million in logging profits with other regional Native corporations over the years.



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