Arkansas Business' 25 Wealthiest Arkansans (25th Anniversary)

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

Members of the Walton family.

Bryan, a son, serves on the board and also is chairman of Global Dealer Group, a private company with operations in motor vehicle sales and service. He also is chairman of Best Buy Here Pay Here of Arkansas, a private company with used-car operations. Additionally, he serves as chairman of Progressive Car Finance, a private company that provides financing for automobile dealers.

7. Walter E. Hussman Jr. Family
One of the most powerful families in Arkansas, the Walter Hussman Jr. family is also a media power in several other markets, reaching hundreds of thousands of people each day through newspaper and broadcast properties.

The bulk of the family fortune rests under the umbrella company Camden News Publishing Co., which includes the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; five other smaller newspapers in Arkansas; the Chattanooga Times Free Press in Tennessee; and cable and radio holdings.

As part of Camden News are Wehco Media Inc., the daily newspapers with a combined circulation of more than 350,000; Wehco Video cable system; and KCMC Inc., which controls broadcast holdings.

In 2001, Arkansas Business estimated the Hussman fortune at $890 million. The recession, coupled with a general diversion of advertising dollars to other media, is having a huge impact on newspapers, so there's no telling what his net worth is today.

Camden News President Walter E. Hussman Jr. bought the assets of the Arkansas Gazette from Gannett Co. in 1991 for $67 million and renamed his Little Rock paper the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Hussman is also in an alliance with the Walton-owned Community Publishers Inc. in northwest Arkansas.

8. Joe T. Ford Family
Joe Ford began his career in telecommunications at Allied Telephone Co.  in 1959 and led what became Alltel Corp. to be the fifth-largest telephone company in the nation. That was before its sale, first to a private equity firm in 2007 and then to Verizon Wireless this year.

Allied Telephone was founded by Hugh Randolph Wilbourn Jr., who died in 2001. Ford is married to Wilbourn's daughter, Jo Ellen.

Ford became president and CEO of Allied in 1977. In 1983, he completed the merger of Allied with Mid-Continent Telephone Co. to form Alltel. After the merger, Ford became president and COO of Alltel.

In the mid-1980s, Ford led the company into the wireless industry, and in 1990 led the move to acquire Systematics Inc., putting the company in the information technology business.

In 1987, Ford was named CEO; in 1991 he was named chairman.



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