Legal Controversy Overshadows Jimmy Winemiller's Wheeling & Dealing Career

by George Waldon  on Monday, Dec. 12, 2011 12:00 am  

Jimmy Winemiller emerged during the 1980s as a wheeler-dealer from Newport, known as a real estate investor who specialized in agri properties, a farmer and a banker.

His business interests were narrowed to farm-related endeavors only in 1986 after he was forced to step down as chairman at First State Bank in Newport. Financial problems amid the S&L meltdown cost Winemiller his stake in First Newport Bancshares Inc., First State's holding company.

His bank stock was lost, pledged as collateral on debt he could no longer service.

In the aftermath, Little Rock's Worthen Bank & Trust ended up taking control of First State and selling the bank to help recoup its loan loss.

Winemiller's net worth on paper at the time was purported to have plummeted from $44 million to a negative $7 million.Not surprisingly, he made a trip to bankruptcy court along the way. His voluntary Chapter 7 petition in Little Rock, filed on May 27, 1988, wasn't closed until Sept. 24, 1993.

Winemiller exited the contentious case on June 16, 1992, with his debts discharged with one exception: a $1.5 million consent judgment entered into with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., receiver for New Orleans Federal Savings & Loan Association.

The liability was linked with Winemiller's participation in Security Land Co., a failed real estate venture financed by the Louisiana thrift.

After his bankruptcy, Becky Winemiller's name started appearing on many of her husband's deals through entities such as U.S. Investment Realty Co., Delta Plantation Inc., Tulip Farms Inc. and Tensas River Farms III LLC.

Over the years, she also has been associated with farms in Concordia and Catahoula parishes in Louisiana, Woodruff and Chicot counties in Arkansas and Bolivar County, Miss.

Although the Winemillers have moved to a $3.1 million, mansion in Memphis (see "Scandal Shadows" sidebar), Jimmy continues to oversee investments in Arkansas.

The Winemillers own a piece of downtown Little Rock's Quapaw Tower - two pieces, actually. Their Crown Investments LLC owns a 625-SF condo on the seventh floor and a 900-SF unit on the second floor.

The couple lived in the highrise before moving to a 4,300-SF home in west Little Rock's Hickory Creek neighborhood.Owned since 1994, the house is for sale, as is their Iron Horse Farm.



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