The Best and Worst of 2010

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

Worst Revisionist History
Under pressure from the federal Office of Thrift Supervision, First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas, the publicly traded holding company for First Federal Bank of Harrison, restated its 2009 results, increasing its net loss for the year to $46.2 million from the $27 million it originally claimed.

Best Safeguard to Property Values
The cachet of Little Rock's Prospect Terrace neighborhood was juiced up considerably when Cliff Lee saw a 5,700-SF house he just had to have. The residential deal by the left-handed ace (now with the Philadelphia Phillies) weighed in at a whopping $2.85 million. Bet this major-league transaction bumped up the comparable sales data for Prospect Terrace.

Best Retention-Expansion News
Announcement of a $62.5 million, 20-acre office development for Southwest Power Pool Inc. in west Little Rock generated smiles for economic boosters.

The 150,000-SF office building and a 33,000-SF operations center will allow SPP, which oversees an electricity power grid in eight states, to consolidate its Little Rock operations. The project also will house an expanded staff envisioned to include 150 new workers during the next three years.

Worst Economic Development Fizzle
That would be the Polymarin Composites plant that was supposed to bring 630 jobs to central Arkansas, along with another 200 by supplier Wind Water Technology. After the big announcement in late 2008, the Dutch company announced a delay of "three to six months" in late 2009. By mid-year, Polymarin's local phone number had been disconnected, its parent company no longer listed an American branch on its website and the 300,542-SF industrial space that Polymarin had secured in a former Levi Strauss & Co. distribution center at 15000 Panatela Parkway was back on the market.

Worst Performance by a Bankruptcy Petitioner
Northwest Arkansas real estate developer Brandon Barber took the witness stand in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to explain the inconsistencies in his bankruptcy filings. He couldn't do it. A bankruptcy judge denied his bankruptcy, which leaves him on the hook for the unsecured portion of his bankruptcy claim - more than $30 million.

Worst Government Defeat
The estate of Charles Murphy Jr. battled the IRS - and won. Years after Murphy's death in 2002, the IRS sent the estate a bill for back taxes for an additional $41.8 million. The estate held its nose and paid the bill, but then sued to get the money back. In the summer, a federal judge ordered the IRS to repay the estate $58.4 million, for the back taxes and interest. The IRS first filed paperwork saying it would appeal the ruling, but then reconsidered and dismissed the appeal.

Best Kiss
That occurred when Curt Bradbury, COO of Stephens Inc. of Little Rock, walked onto the trading floor at Crews & Associates, Stephens' bond house rival, in November and laid a kiss on the cheek of Crews CEO Rush Harding. Harding had made a $100,000 gift to help the Arkansas Arts Center reduce its debt, and he did it in honor of Bradbury and his wife, Chucki.

Worst One-Two Blow
A criminal indictment on five counts of loan fraud and Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing provided a one-two punch in July for Little Rock developer Steve Clary. Subsequent courtroom documents indicated that his personal fortune plummeted from $92 million to nothing in three years. Hammered by failing business ventures outside of real estate, Clary allegedly borrowed money under false pretenses in a vain attempt to stay on his feet.

Best Way to Draw Ex-Employer's Ire
Officials at Little Rock's One Bank & Trust weren't happy to discover that Kelly Harbert allegedly defrauded the bank of at least $277,800. Soon after her dismissal, bank execs were even less happy to learn the former commercial loan officer allegedly would be traveling to Cabo San Lucas for some fun in the sun.

One Bank considered her vacation plans to be in bad form, went after Harbert in court and sought, among other things, to restrict her passport options.

Worst Evidence of a Debilitating Illness
The October sentencing hearing for bank fraudster Dana Washburn of Rogers lasted three hours and was interrupted by about a half-dozen trips to the restroom by the defendant. But extensive evidence of Washburn's severe urinary incontinence was undermined by her acknowledgement that she had taken three vacations to Mexico this year, international travel that prosecutors only became aware of because it was mentioned in her medical records. U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes was not persuaded that Washburn's condition was such a hardship that she shouldn't have to serve time in a federal prison; he sentenced her to 41 months, which will commence in February.

Worst Ending for an Arkansas Company
National Home Centers Inc.
made a 38-year run as a family-controlled enterprise before a Chapter 11 bankruptcy sale ended the show. A court-approved $15 million sale of assets to Stock Building Supply Holdings LLC of Raleigh, N.C., took care of the secured creditors and preserved some jobs. "It's a funeral, I tell you," said Dwayne Newman, company founder. "The outcome was just awful, to start something and it end like this. I figured I would die, and some National Home Center entity would be around, and it wouldn't have vanished."



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