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Update: Sealaska dividends include no earnings

Sealaska CEO Chris McNeil Jr. addresses Juneau's Native Issues Forum April 2, 2014. The corporation's spring distribution includes no operating revenue. (Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska)

Sealaska CEO Chris McNeil Jr. addresses Juneau’s Native Issues Forum April 2, 2014. The corporation’s spring distribution includes no operating revenue. (Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska)

The Sealaska regional Native corporation does not appear to be making much – if any – money. Its spring distribution to shareholders, which is basically a dividend, includes no corporate revenues.

Sealaska distributes payments to its almost 21,600 shareholders twice a year. In recent years, they’ve ranged from about $400 to around $1,100.

The money comes from three sources. The largest is a pool of all 12 regional Native corporations’ resource earnings. Another is Sealaska’s permanent fund. The third is profits from the corporation’s businesses.

“Usually there are. This year there isn’t any operating revenue included in the formula,” says Chris McNeil Jr., president and CEO of the Juneau-headquartered corporation.

He won’t say why Sealaska has no revenues to contribute. But he says the information will be in the corporation’s annual report, due out in May.

“I can’t really provide any details on it until we publish. And we’ve done that traditionally to make sure there is no miscommunication about what is being transmitted to shareholders,” he says.

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“Sealaska is so opaque. They don’t really share much about their finances,” says Brad Fluetsch, a shareholder who runs a Facebook page highly critical of Sealaska. He’s also founder and managing director of Fortress Investment Management LLC.

He says even the annual reports lack detail. Earnings and losses are reported in sectors, so the reader often can’t tell which individual businesses are making or losing cash.

Still, Fluetsch says Sealaska’s board was honest when it approved a distribution without corporate revenues.

“I’ll give them kudos for that because that did take some effort on their part. Now what they need to do is hire a management team that can make that zero go away and actually turn it into a positive number,” he says.

McNeil is retiring this summer and the search for a replacement is underway.

This spring distribution totals about $12 million. It gives most shareholders $721. But others receive only $57.

The difference is that pool of resource earnings. McNeil says the biggest contributor is the owner of Northwest Alaska’s Red Dog Mine.

“At this point, NANA is the principal distributor. But cumulatively, Arctic Slope has distributed more revenue than any other corporation,” McNeil says.

Sealaska was a major contributor before its timber subsidiary starting running out of trees.

Most shareholders also belong to a smaller, community-based Native corporation.

Those getting the $721 payment also own stock in Juneau and Sitka’s urban Native corporations. Those receiving $57 are shareholders in a village corporation, from Yakutat to Saxman.

“The portion of the funds that go to tribal member shareholders who are enrolled to village corporations goes to the village corporation. And then the corporations board of directors is entitled to decide whether or not some or all of those funds will be distributed directly to their tribal members shareholders or to retain them in the corporation,” McNeil says.

There are several other classes of shareholders.

Those only holding Sealaska stock get the full $721. Descendents of original shareholders receive the lower amount of $57. And elders get an extra $57 on top of whatever else they receive.

All the amounts are based on ownership of 100 shares. That’s the most common number. But some shareholders have more, or different types, of stock due to gifting or inheritance.

Read last year’s annual report.

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