Arkansas Business' 25 Wealthiest Arkansans (25th Anniversary)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Mar. 23, 2009 12:00 am  

Members of the Walton family.

Searcy's First Security Bank became the foundation for today's $2.4 billion-asset First Security Bancorp. It had income of $23.1 million last year. The holding company expanded into northwest Arkansas and deepened its central Arkansas presence with the 2000 acquisition of Little Rock investment banking firm Crews & Associates and a branching program.

Rutledge is chairman, president and CEO of the privately held banking company. Based on the cash equity of First Security, Rutledge's net worth is probably more than $300 million.

21. Wallace Fowler
Banking is a second career for Wallace Fowler. After making a sizable fortune with Fowler Foods, a chain of 65 Taco Bell and KFC franchises in five states, he turned it over to his son, Chris.

And as chairman and CEO of Liberty Bancshares Inc. of Jonesboro, he has proven to be one of the state's most able bankers.

Liberty Bancshares now has $2.6 billion in assets and made $11.5 million last year. With equity capital of $293 million, the bank is worth at least $400 million to $450 million, with the Fowlers' share about 20 percent. Another son, Mark, is vice chairman of the privately owned banking company.

A third son, Wally, has a chain of Subway restaurants not connected with Fowler Foods.

Wallace recently was named to the Arkansas State Police Commission and was a former chairman of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

He and his wife, Jama, gave $1.75 million to the University of Arkansas for the construction of the university chancellor's home on the Fayetteville campus. In 1998, the Fowlers gave $5 million to Arkansas State University to build the $13.5 million Fowler Center, a 79,000-SF performing arts hall.

22. Joe Whisenhunt
Joe Whisenhunt made a fortune in developing commercial and industrial real estate projects. Lately, the development of natural gas wells on his 4,000-acre cattle ranch at Bee Branch is adding to the family wealth.

Yes, his Harmony Meadows ranch is right in the heart of the Fayetteville Shale Play, where the price of an acre in the area, depending on many factors, can run from $2,500 to $6,500.

Through Whisenhunt Investments, he has been involved in developing several projects in west Little Rock, including 120 acres that were formerly part of Shackleford Dairy Farm.

He also made a fortune with the sale of his health care software firm, Integrated Medical Networks LLC, for $65 million back in 1998.



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