Central: After Manufacturing Divestiture, Fletcher Expands Auto Sales

by Robert Bell  on Monday, May. 23, 2011 12:00 am  

On the final day of 2010, a 30-year chapter came to a close for Frank Fletcher Cos. Ltd., a conglomerate owned by the storied North Little Rock businessman whose namesake firm employs 1,000 people and had revenue of $770 million last year.

(Click here for a list of the largest private companies in central Arkansas.)

Frank Fletcher got his start in the late 1960s as a manufacturer's rep for a burgeoning northwest Arkansas retailer called Wal-Mart. Under the guidance of Sam Walton, Fletcher went from representing manufacturers to becoming one himself.

His Silverwood Products Inc. and Cheyenne Industries would go on to become some of the largest suppliers of lamps, mirrors and frames to major retailers, including Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Target, Lowe's and others.

But running those businesses required a great deal of travel, both national and international, and Fletcher decided to sell them and focus on expanding his auto dealership empire.

The car business already accounts for the bulk of the company's revenue - $625 million for 2010, Fletcher said. But at $125 million, the lamp and mirror business was nothing to sneeze at.

Terms of the sale, including the price and buyer, were not disclosed. But Fletcher said it was important to him that any potential buyer agree to retain all the employees and not split the company up. "I had an opportunity with a group that would keep all our people and they're still leasing our warehouses here in Little Rock," Fletcher said. 

So what will 2011 revenue look like with the manufacturing business sold?

"We think it will be equal or more," he said.

Fletcher Cos. "had a lot of money tied up in warehouse inventory for Target and Home Depot, and we don't have any of that anymore," he said. "We sold our factories in China. So we're taking our bag of marbles and we're going to expand the automobile business."

The company already owns several dealerships in Missouri and is buying two more in unspecified cities, said Tom Roy, COO for Frank Fletcher Cos.

Fletcher recently sold one of his northwest Arkansas dealerships to Everett Buick GMC of Bryant. It was Fletcher's only GMC store, and at first he was somewhat reluctant: "Mr. Everett called me and I said it wasn't for sale. He said, 'Everything is for sale; we're just dickering over the price,' and I said, 'Maybe you're right.'"



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