Private Firms See Revenue Plunge During Tough '09

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, May. 24, 2010 12:00 am  

New to Arkansas Business? list of largest private companies this year is No. 65 Tankersley Foodservice. Above, CEO Don Tankersley stands with Thomas Moon, who runs the operations of the company?s 150,000-SF warehouse.

The List
Two companies make their debuts on the list this year: Tankersley Food Service LLC of Van Buren at No. 65 (see related story) and North Metro Medical Center, the Jacksonville hospital formerly known as Rebsamen Medical Center, at No. 71. They replace May Construction Co. and Continental Express Inc., both of Little Rock. May Construction, which had well-documented financial problems in 2009, did not respond to Arkansas Business' survey. The assets of Continental Express were sold to the Celadon Group of Indianapolis in December 2008.

E.C. Barton & Co. of Jonesboro, No. 29 on this year's list with $334 million in sales, will likely slide down next year. The wholesaler of building materials recently sold seven stores in southwest Missouri to Meek's Lumber Co. of Springfield, Mo.

Three companies are making their final appearance on this year's list: Affiliated Foods Southwest of Little Rock, National Home Centers Inc. of Springdale and Sparks Health System of Fort Smith.

Affiliated Foods, which was No. 13 with $730 million in revenue on last year's list, went bankrupt and shut down a year ago, just before the end of its 2009 fiscal year in June. It ranks at No. 16 on this year's list with estimated revenue of $650 million in its last fiscal year, a stark reminder that revenue and profit are not synonymous. Affiliated's former CEO, John Mills, pleaded guilty to bank fraud for a check-kiting scheme that he claimed kept the company from collapsing months earlier. Former CFO Lex Martinez faces related federal criminal charges.

National Home Centers completed 2009 as an Arkansas-owned private company, but it was sold out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month to Stock Building Supply of Raleigh, N.C. (See related story.)

Sparks Health System, now officially renamed Fort Smith HMA LLC, was acquired in December by Health Management Associates Inc. of Naples, Fla. It ranks at No. 34 on the strength of its $260 million in revenue during the fiscal year that ended May 31, 2009, when it was still an Arkansas-owned private company.

Bright Spots
Despite a 25 percent reduction in the number of vehicles registered in Arkansas last year, some of the state's largest automotive dealers recorded solid sales figures in 2009. Frank Fletcher Cos. of Little Rock, a conglomerate that includes home furnishings manufacturing, restaurants and 12 auto dealerships, reported revenue of $740 million, up 2.1 percent from 2008. Sales were down at Superior Automotive Group of Fayetteville, but by less than 1 percent, according to co-owner Avis Bailey.

"We had a more profitable year in '09 than we [had] in '08," Bailey said, "but we had our expenses in line."

Hickingbotham Investments Inc. of Little Rock, owned by the Frank Hickingbotham family, recorded a $50 million drop in revenue, from $370 million in 2008 to $320 million in 2009. That was primarily because of the sale of three locations of Jones Harley-Davidson to RLJ-McLarty-Landers Automotive Partnership in September 2008, according to Hickingbotham's executive vice president, Gene H. Whisenhunt.



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