It is with pride in and great appreciation to Sealaska tribal member shareholders that I announce my retirement as President & CEO of Sealaska within the next nine months. The board of directors, the executive management and I are working as a team to transform Sealaska for the benefit of future generations of tribal member shareholders. You will see positive changes continue to unfold in the coming months. And, I am confident that you will see that these changes will lead to even stronger results and benefits to tribal member shareholders.
I want to assure you that the board of directors, executive management team and I will work closely in the coming months to ensure a smooth and seamless leadership transition. The Board of Directors will very shortly retain an independent and reputable executive recruitment firm to help the board recruit our next President and CEO. The board will make a selection after rigorous due diligence and thorough review of the most highly qualified tribal member shareholder candidates.
During my time at Sealaska, starting in 1978 as corporate secretary then as executive vice president and general counsel, board member, and now as chief executive, I have seen the company go through its share of ups and downs. But, despite many challenges, we can be very proud of what Sealaska has accomplished.
Shareholders voted in 2007 to include shareholder descendants, and in 2009 to approve increased dividend benefits for our Elders. We saw incredible social and economic problems in our villages and so we created Haa Aaní, LLC, to focus on improving the economic conditions of our homeland communities in Southeast Alaska. The Walter Soboleff Center is rapidly taking shape to house our cultural programs and represent our spirit to the world. Our ANCSA land legislation strengthens our economic presence in the region and ensures we receive all of the lands that we were promised under ANCSA. It is now ready to be voted on by the full House and Senate. More than anything else, I am very proud of the great increase in number and capacity of our team of tribal member shareholders at all levels in your corporation. We have grown our own. And they are a foundation for future success.
Looking forward, we have a solid strategic plan in place and are steadily moving closer to reaching measurable goals. Our priority is to assure that the profits from our business operations fully support Sealaska, without considering the additional income from 7(i) from the other regions and our investment portfolios by December 2015. Our future investments will align with our four core Native cultural values and our identity as Native people.
Sealaska is financially strong and has the capacity to make these transformations, including making a substantial new business acquisition. Sealaska is over two and a half times more valuable today than it was when I was elected CEO in 2001. As our 2012 audited financial records show, our shareholder’s equity is $256 million, in comparison to $103 million in 2001 - even after we distributed $189 million in dividends to tribal member shareholders. (About $117 million of the dividends were from 7(i)). Additionally, we have grown the Marjorie V. Young Permanent Fund from $41 million in 2001 to about $88 million at the end of 2012. Finally, we had no Investment and Growth Fund in 2001 and now it is nearly $60 million. We have the financial capacity to profitably grow Sealaska.
My time at Sealaska has been both fulfilling and humbling. It has been my honor to serve you over the last 12 years. I approach my retirement with the deepest respect and gratitude for all of the Sealaska employees who work so hard for all of us, for the board of directors and for you, my fellow tribal member shareholders. I know that Sealaska will reach ever higher to fulfill its purpose - to strengthen its people, culture and homelands.
Gunalchéesh, Háw'aa, T'oyaxsism