Arkansas Business' 25 Outlaws, Scoundrels & Posers (25th Anniversary)

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

Arkansas Business has covered its share of characters during the past 25 years. Some were outright criminals, while others pushed the boundaries but were never convicted of stepping over the line. Here's a roster of memorable names that drew our attention, in something approaching chronological order.

1. Paul L. Simmons
Paul L. Simmons came to Arkansas in 1984 with grand plans for BioPlex International, the state's first high-tech industrial park in Maumelle. Simmons touted himself as a nationally known consultant to major pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms.

However, a closer look at his résumé and name-dropping claims revealed a checkered past seasoned with a heavy dose of overstatements and outright lies.

Arkansas Business exposed Simmons in coverage that horrified "pro-business" types at the time, but who were later relieved his dealings didn't prove more embarrassing and costly to the state.

Among the phantom achievements listed among his inflated professional credentials were not one but two bogus engineering degrees. Though long overdue, we hereby award Simmons an honorary BS.

2. Hugh O'Neal
Arkansas Business followed its reporting on Paul Simmons with not-so-charitable coverage of Hugh O'Neal and his Sequoia Foundation, leading some readers to wonder if our upstart publication was on a mission to run opportunity out of town.

O'Neal was selling his "non-profit" foundation as an international clearinghouse for research data and for biological studies aimed at conquering the aging process.

Yeah, we're talking high-tech fountain-of-youth stuff, a $15 million complex overlooking Lake Maumelle that included an executive health spa. Gaping holes in his story and plans couldn't be filled with good answers.

In 1987, O'Neal didn't have any good answers for a Pulaski County jury that sentenced him to 10 years in prison for swindling investors of more than $150,000 in connection with suspect oil and gas leases in Ohio.

Coverage of O'Neal and Simmons established AB 's reputation for exploring beyond the surface and not shying away from controversy.

3. David Kane
The business affairs of David Kane were already in turmoil when Arkansas Business hit the scene, what with bankruptcy filings for himself and about a dozen firms he led in July 1982. His courtroom drama continued through our early years and extended beyond bankruptcy court.

Old Worthen Banking hands remember Kane with disdain for filing a shareholder lawsuit in 1985 alleging corporate negligence when the Little Rock bank began enduring losses from bad investments.



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