Best & Worst of 2009

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

Worst Hair Day

J.M. Products of Little Rock, once one of the country's largest manufacturers of ethnic hair care products, woke up with bed head in April. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and listed $14.6 million in debts and $20.1 million in assets. But the company never improved under Chapter 11. Its assets were sold in October at an auction for $6.8 million to C2 Global Technologies Inc. of Canada. J.M. had struggled after the 2005 death of its founder, Ernest Joshua Sr. Joshua started the company in the 1970s and ended up in the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.


Best Legal Showdown

Two of Little Rock's best-known businessmen stepped into the Pulaski County Courthouse to fight over money. In 2008, Jennings Osborne sued some investment firms controlled by Little Rock financier Warren Stephens. Osborne charged that after he sold his Arkansas Research Medical Testing LLC to Stephens' companies in 2004, the new management made a mess of things. Osborne said he was banking on the managers listening to his advice so he could receive $9 million in deferred compensation after selling the company for $20 million. Although the medical testing company reached its financial goals the first year, it didn't the second or third year, resulting in Osborne missing out on $6 million. In September, a Pulaski County jury ruled in favor of Osborne, but it awarded him only $3 million instead of the $6 million he sought.


Best-Kept Secret

In January, IberiaBank Corp. of Lafayette, La., announced that it had charged off $3.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2008 because of credit fraud by an unnamed Arkansas customer who had used phony collateral to secure a series of loans. Despite a number of tantalizing clues in the bank's statement, it was not until May 11 that Arkansas Business identified the fraudster: Dana Washburn of Rogers. She pleaded guilty the next day to a federal charge of bank fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced in March.


Best Stupid Robbery

In July, a burglar performed a smash-and-grab on perhaps one of the dumbest places to rob in Little Rock. The suspect backed a truck into Wired!, a Little Rock firm that specializes in video surveillance, and proceeded to steal a flat-screen TV from the location on Bowman Road. Unsurprisingly, the robber was apprehended soon after since Wired! is equipped with 17 digital cameras.




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