Money-losing subsidiaries have to go

PHOTO/Danny Daniels/AJOC
Although timber harvesting, Sealaska Corp.’s core business for 21 years, is doing well even in a down market, things have gone sour on some promising new ventures and the stock market hasn’t cooperated.

For the first time in 17 years, the Southeast Native regional corporation will report a loss. On top of that, Sealaska has lost its key chief executive, Bob Loescher, a long-time top manager and president and chief executive since 1997. Loescher stepped down in January for a variety of reasons. A search for new CEO is under way.

Before he left the top job, Loescher had put Sealaska on a correction course.

"These are rough waters for Sealaska right now, but we’re taking the appropriate actions to deal with them," Loescher said in a December report to shareholders.

"We are implementing an immediate action plan to correct the financial situation, by selling off or writing down unproductive assets," he said.

A new strategic plan will have Sealaska move away from operating companies and toward venture-capital type opportunities and partnerships with other businesses.

For example, a new wireless telecommunications venture with AT&T, Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and Doyon Ltd., two other regional corporations, is showing great promise. So is an investment in a resort development near San Diego with the San Pasqual Band, a local Native American group.

Among the businesses Sealaska will sell are its holdings in TriQuest, a precision plastics and injection molding firm owned by Sealaska, a small limestone mine at Calder, on Prince of Wales Island, and some real estate outside of Alaska owned by the corporation.

TriQuest has been hurt by the tumult in the computer and high-tech industries, which are its key customers. The mine at Calder, which produces a very high quality limestone used in the making of fine paper, has cost more to start than was thought, Loescher said to shareholders.

Rick Harris, Sealaska’s senior vice president for resources, said the Calder mine has the potential of growing into a solid business for the right company, but that its expected return on investment is no longer appropriate for Sealaska.

02/24/2001 - 8:00pm