Loescher leaving Sealaska

Search to begin for new corporation CEO

Posted: Monday, January 29, 2001

Sealaska President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Loescher resigned this morning.

Loescher referred questions about his resignation to corporate spokesman Ross Soboleff. Soboleff wouldn't give a reason for the resignation, which became effective immediately.

The search for a new chief executive will begin immediately, but Soboleff said he didn't know how long the search would take or how it would be conducted.

Sealaska's Board of Directors, which met in Seattle over the weekend, appointed an interim executive team to oversee operations until Loescher's

replacement is chosen. Board Chairman Albert Kookesh, an Angoon Democrat serving in the state House, Sealaska Executive Vice President and General Counsel Chris McNeil Jr., and Chief Operating Officer Joseph Devine were named to the team. Kookesh said Loescher will advise the team.

Loescher has been head of the Juneau-based regional Native corporation since September 1997 and began his career with the company in 1978.

The board accepted his resignation.

"That's something," said Johanna Dybdahl, tribal administrator for the Hoonah Indian Association. "We're sorry to hear that."

Dybdahl said Loescher has done well for Sealaska, though she didn't always agree with his methods. They have been adversaries at times, she said, but Loescher was accessible and respectful.

Sealaska recently invested in an Indian casino project in Southern California and partnered with two other Alaska regional Native corporations and AT&T to form Alaska Native Wireless to buy Federal Communications Commission cell phone or other telecommunications licenses.

Kookesh said the corporation had no immediate plans to change its direction.

"We will continue to move ahead with our plans to grow and diversify Sealaska Corp.," he said in a press release.

Sealaska also owns three businesses and has an investment portfolio. But only one business did well last year. Sealaska's timber operations continue to be its highlight, doing well while investments in a plastics plant and limestone mine have gone sour. Both reported losses last year and the corporation is seeking to sell them.

The investment portfolio did about as well as Wall Street last year, which wasn't good as the market slipped from a bull to a bear.

Sealaska reported earlier it expects 2000 year-end results to be its first loss in 17 years. In 1999, Sealaska reported a net income of $10 million on revenues of $176 million and assets of $355 million.

The corporation paid out $8 million in dividends to its 16,000 shareholders last year, down from $9.4 million in 1999.

Mike Hinman can be reached at mhinman@juneauempire.com.

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