Best & Worst of 2009

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 28, 2009 12:00 am  

Best Cautionary Tale

Despite having a doctorate in economics, Jeff Collins got caught up in the northwest Arkansas construction boom and went bust, straight into a bankruptcy filing listing $10.3 million in debts. Collins had an impressive background: former chief of the Center for Business & Economics Research at the University of Arkansas, partner in Streetsmart Data Services LLC of Fayetteville, etc. Props go to Collins, however, for being open about his downfall and sharing the story with our readers.


Worst Legal Arguments

The lawyers at Carney Williams Bates Bozeman & Pulliam became righteously legalistic when they claimed they couldn't possibly pay their disgraced former partner and rainmaker Gene Cauley contingency fees on pending cases because he surrendered his law license in May. Instead of the millions Cauley believes he's due, they offered to pay him an hourly rate for services rendered. It might be possible to feel some sympathy for Cauley if he hadn't attempted an even more audacious argument in a separate legal dispute. A 22-year-old employee of Cauley's billboard company was electrocuted, and Cauley argued that his former law firm's workers' compensation policy should cover the billboard company employees that he had otherwise failed to insure. 


Worst Retreat

After nearly two years of hounding Dillard's Inc. hoping for change, New York activist investors quietly cashed out of the Little Rock retail chain. Since 2007, Barington Capital Group, led by James A. Mitarotonda, and the Clinton Group Inc., both of New York, had been trying to gain access to the hermetically sealed retailer. Mitarotonda did score a victory when he was able to choose four board members in 2008. But even with that win, the Dillard family still had the upper hand because their votes controlled the board. In 2008, the activist investors' frustration with management continued as sales continued to slide along with the company's stock price. As of March 31, the shareholders had sold most of their Dillard's stock.


Best Upward Failure

In June, former University of Central Arkansas President Lu Hardin was named president of Palm Beach Atlantic University, a private interdenominational Christian university in West Palm Beach, Fla. Hardin left UCA last year in what could fairly be termed a state of disgrace, with a state audit finding potential legal problems with $300,000 in bonuses and the nearly $1 million buyout paid to Hardin, among other issues. A number of the audit findings were forwarded to the Faulkner County Prosecuting Attorney for review, and the FBI reportedly is looking into goings-on at UCA.




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