Sealaska's chief executive to depart, but company says its strategy will stay the same

Anthony Mallott, who's led the Southeast Alaska regional Native corporation for nearly a decade, is leaving his job, along with another executive, Jaeleen Kookesh.

Sealaska's chief executive to depart, but company says its strategy will stay the same
Anthony Mallott (Courtesy Sealaska)

Southeast Alaska’s regional Native corporation, Sealaska, announced a major transition this week: Its longtime chief executive, Anthony Mallott, will leave the company next year.

Mallott, son of the late Byron Mallott — a former lieutenant governor and longtime Tlingit leader — has worked at Sealaska since 2008, and as its chief executive since 2014.

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He arrived as the company was in crisis, having reported $35 million in losses the previous year stemming largely from problems at a heavy construction subsidiary.

Since then, Sealaska has reorganized its subsidiaries around the theme of ocean health and made a small investment in a local kelp products company — a shift that its leaders, including Mallott, describe as an effort to better align Sealaska’s businesses with Indigenous values.

In 2021, the company also announced its transition away from logging, a business that had long polarized its shareholders because of its environmental impacts.

Sealaska is a political and economic force in Southeast, and the news Mallott’s departure prompted questions from some of its 25,000 Indigenous shareholders.

Local coverage noted that the leadership change came as the company announced its financial results. Sealaska said last week that its annual dividend would shrink for the first time since Mallott’s hiring as chief executive — to $585 for each shareholder with 100 shares, from $767 last year.

But Mallott did not, in fact, oversee Sealaska’s day-to-day business affairs. That job falls to Terry Downes, Sealaska’s Seattle-based chief operating officer and the chief executive of its holding company, Woocheen.

Mallott, from his office in Juneau, has been the public and local face of Sealaska.

He declined to speak about the announcement. But in a conversation this week, a Sealaska board member described Mallott’s departure as a reflection of the board’s desire to refocus and deepen the company’s relationships with shareholders and potential partners in the Southeast Alaska region — like tribal governments, village leaders and educational institutions.

A company spokesman confirmed that this characterization was accurate. Sealaska says it does not plan an immediate search to replace Mallott; Downes will continue to lead the company’s businesses.

Company leaders say that the recent dip in its dividend distributions was driven not by fundamental problems in its businesses, but by isolated events: a drop in revenue shared by other Native regional corporations, a bad year for its investment fund, and ups and downs in income it gets by selling carbon credits tied to its timber holdings.

Sealaska’s overall strategy, the board member said, is not changing.

“We are proud of all we have been able to do to support education, workforce development, revitalization of Indigenous culture, and economic programs to help people and communities to build new economies based on long-term stewardship of natural resources,” Mallott and Joe Nelson, Sealaska’s board chair, wrote in a letter announcing the transition. “We are looking forward to doing more, and better, on behalf of our shareholders.”

Mallott is one of two top Sealaska executives leaving their jobs.

Jaeleen Kookesh, an attorney who’s worked as Sealaska’s vice president of policy and legal affairs, is also departing — though a company official said that move was unrelated to Mallott’s transition. Kookesh also declined to comment.

The announcement of the departures prompted mixed reactions on social media.

Sealaska has a vocal group of dissident shareholders who have criticized the company’s by-laws and voting rules, saying that those systems are tilted in favor of incumbent board members.

And some of those critics questioned why Mallott was leaving the company while Downes remains in place. Others commenters expressed regret and thanked Mallott for his service.

Correction: The original version of this story said that Sealaska will not conduct a search for Mallott’s replacement. In fact, the board will make a final decision about whether to replace Mallott at a meeting in July.