Akhiok shareholders to get $200,000 each

Posted: Monday, August 26, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Shareholders of a small Native corporation on Kodiak Island are each about to receive $200,000, tax free.

Akhiok Kaguyak Inc. will make the first payment to its 147 shareholders on Friday after cashing out most of a trust account worth about $40 million.

The typical shareholder owning 100 shares will receive $100,000. Another $100,000 round is set to go out before the end of January.

The payout is among the largest cash distributions ever made by one of Alaska's roughly 225 Native-owned corporations created by Congress three decades ago.

Akhiok, a village of 80 people on the southern tip of Kodiak Island, is largely dependent on fishing, subsistence and government assistance. The community lies 340 miles southwest of Anchorage and is accessible only by air and water.

A long-fought battle led to this month's decision to empty most of the company's settlement trust, an account funded by the sale of 77,000 acres of Akhiok-Kaguyak land to the Exxon Valdez Trustee Council in 1995, several shareholders said.

A vote to liquidate the entire account narrowly failed, according to chairwoman Pauline Coyle-O'Brien and others. A second ballot tallied this month resulted in 79 percent of shareholders voting for a partial payout of $31 million, she said.

Akhiok Kaguyak's former president said he resigned in protest last March when board members made it clear that they wanted to cash out.

''I didn't believe in selling the land and giving the cash to just one generation,'' Ralph Eluska told the Anchorage Daily News. ''I'm so saddened by the whole thing.''

The company had been paying $1,000-a-month dividends to the typical shareholder. Those will now end, he said.

Some shareholders of Akhiok Kaguyak have been pushing to liquidate the trust almost since its inception. In 1997, two years after the trust's creation, a group circulated a petition calling for the election of new board members who would distribute the cash. The corporation sued them on charges of making false and misleading statements. The case resulted in a $5 million settlement that was distributed among shareholders, Eluska said.

The decision to cash out three-quarters of the trust means about $10 million remains, Ralph Eluska said.

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