The Top 10 Business Stories of 2010

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 27, 2010 12:00 am  

Bank of the Ozarks closed four FDIC-assisted transactions in Southeastern banks with combined total assets topping $1.1 billion: Unity National Bank of Cartersville, Ga., in March; Woodlands Bank of Bluffton, S.C., in July; Horizon Bank of Bradenton, Fla., in September; and Chestatee State Bank of Dawsonville, Ga.

George Gleason, chairman and CEO of Bank of the Ozarks, was honored as a Community Banker of the Year by American Banker.

Simmons First went north to expand its total assets by more than $420 million in FDIC-assisted deals for Southwest Community Bank of Springfield, Mo., and Security Savings Bank of Olathe, Kan., in October.

The conventional, $3.15 million acquisition of Community State Bank of Bradley (Lafayette County) in September brought additional assets of $24 million to the Golden family's Allied Bank operations in Arkansas.

"Record quarterly profits" during 2010 was a refrain enjoyed by both public and private banking ventures, highlighted by Bank of the Ozarks on the public end of the spectrum and First Security Bancorp of Searcy among private holding companies.

Arvest Bank of Fayetteville, the largest bank headquartered in Arkansas with total assets of $11.3 billion, started the year at No. 92 among the nation's largest banks thanks in part to the disappearance of nearly 300 charters during 2009.

5. High-Profile Financial Meltdowns
Bankruptcies, collection suits and federal indictments have become lagging indicators of the ferocity of the Great Recession as over-leverage and sagging real estate values finally caught up with some of the biggest names in Arkansas business.

Gene Cauley, lawyer and real estate investor, got the party started by reporting to federal prison in Colorado in January after pleading guilty in 2009 to stealing $9.3 million from a client trust fund.

In February, John David Lindsey, son of Fayetteville real estate magnate Jim Lindsey, filed the largest personal bankruptcy in memory: $169.6 million in debts against $9.9 million in assets.

March brought news from the Arkansas Insurance Department that Steve Standridge of Mount Ida, patriarch of one of the largest insurance agencies in the state, had falsified $4 million in collateral to buy a small workers compensation insurance carrier, Gibraltar National Life Insurance of Little Rock. State regulators also said that banks made millions of dollars worth of premium finance loans against Standridge policies that never existed or that were quickly canceled.

The Little Rock businessman who sold Gibraltar to Standridge was also a victim of the recession. In July, Ed Harvey, 78 and diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, was accused by two banks of transferring assets to his wife to avoid paying debts. The Harveys have avoided bankruptcy and receivership, but they have been selling off assets, including a 126-foot yacht for the bargain-basement price of $2.27 million.

Also in July, Steve Clary of Little Rock, developer of Shackleford Crossings and dabbler in many other businesses, was indicted by a federal grand jury on four counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud for allegedly misappropriating $1.6 million in bank loan proceeds. Clary, who claimed net worth of $92 million at the end of 2007, in August filed a bankruptcy petition that was nearly as big as John David Lindsey's: $168.6 million in liabilities and only $1.4 million in assets.



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