Calista Shareholders Vote to Enroll ‘Afterborns’

Thousands of so-called afterborns will be eligible for shares of Calista Corporation after shareholders voted Saturday. The preliminary results from the annual meeting in Kasigluk dramatically reshape the ownership of the Y-K Delta’s regional Alaska Native Corporation.

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The prospect of enrolling the younger generation of Y-K Delta Alaska Natives has been discussed for years. Now after the historic vote, Calista communications manager Thom Leonard says it too will take time to bring on the tens of thousands of new shareholders, That’s expected to start in the first half of 2017.

Calista is the regional Native corporation for much of Western Alaska. (Image courtesy of Calista Corp.)
Calista is the regional Native corporation for much of Western Alaska. (Image courtesy of Calista Corp.)

“This is going to be a long term process. It’s something that can’t happen overnight. Over the next 18 to 24 months, we’ll spend a lot of time developing and implementing the enrollment process.  We’re going to be talking to other regional Alaska Native Corporations who have enrolled their descendants, finding about materials they used to process their enrollment of descendants.”

The move extends the shareholder base beyond people born before a cutoff date of December 18th 1971. Prior to passage of the binding resolution, younger people could only receive shares through inheritance or gifting.

The company estimates that the number of shareholders could quickly increase from 13,000 to between 38,000 and 43,000.  With a tripling of shares, each individual shareholder would, on average, receive one-third of the value of shareholder dividends relative to the company prior to expansion.  Last year’s dividend averaged $380 dollars.

Board Chair Willie Kasayulie of Akiachak says the company will benefit from the new voices.

“Many of these younger people are highly educated and I think in that context, I welcome the enrollment of descendants because of their ability to provide input to the operation of the company.”

In addition to descendants, people who were eligible in 1971 but did not enroll can apply for shares. Enrollment will be ongoing after it starts in 2017.  That means newborn Y-K Delta Alaska Natives will be eligible upon birth for their corporate shares.

“The parents will be able to apply to become a shareholder for them at any time, there wont’ be any open periods or anything like that.”

Original shares will not go away and can be passed through gifting. The new shares however, are life estate, meaning that they only exist as long as the shareholder is alive.

The company takes on additional administrative overhead with the growth. Implementing the enrollment may cost a million dollars.  Establishing a quorum also becomes more complicated. While more than 60 percent of shareholders live in the Y-K Delta region, that figure could drop to 55 percent with the descendant enrollment.

Calista has grown from the 16th largest Alaska-owned company by revenues in 2010 to the eighth largest last year. The company is active in several industries, like aerospace, military contracting, real estate, and construction. They own subsurface rights to the Donlin Gold prospect.

Leonard says the company’s focus remains the same.

“Calista’s day-to-day operations and strategies don’t really change. Under ANCSA, ANC’s have two objections. One e is to be successful business. The other is to improve the lives of their shareholders. Calista will continue to work to be a successful company.”

Calista joins other Alaska Native corporations like the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, Doyon, and Sealaska that have issued shares to descendants. The most recent was Ahtna in 2008.

Ben Matheson is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network.

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