The Top 10 Business Stories of 2008

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 22, 2008 12:00 am  

John Glasgow, CFO of CDI Contractors, disappeared on Jan. 28. Dillard's owned a half-interest in CDI and was embroiled in a bookkeeping dispute with CDI management when Glasgow, of Little Rock, vanished.

Atlantis Holdings LLC, Alltel's parent company, which is controlled by TPG and Goldman Sachs, revealed uncertainty about its ability to properly grow the company.

"However, due to the financial pressures from the ongoing credit crunch that has plagued the U.S. economy since the fall of 2007, Atlantis Holdings now believes that it will be difficult to raise the capital to make the necessary future investments in the company," Atlantis' legal counsel, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP, wrote.

So when Verizon approached Alltel in April, the firms decided to take the gain and deleverage rather than hang onto the exorbitant amount of debt and run the risk of a Lehman-like demise.

Verizon agreed to assume Alltel's $22.2 billion of debt and to pay cash for the $5.9 billion of equity.

The agreement kicked off a race against the time left in a business-friendly presidential administration to obtain regulatory approval of an acquisition that would create the largest wireless company in America, eclipsing AT&T by more than 7 million subscribers.

The U.S. Department of Justice all but signed off on the deal when it issued a statement on Oct. 30 that Verizon must divest assets in 100 cellular market areas, five fewer than Verizon had anticipated having to sell.

The five-member FCC, dominated by a scant Republican majority, finally arrived nearly five hours late to the Nov. 4 meeting because of last-minute deliberations on the merger conditions.

The commission's consensus? Verizon must divest 105 markets and offer four-year roaming agreements or fulfill the life of the existing roaming contract, whichever comes latest.

On Dec. 9, Verizon cleared its last regulatory hurdle with a nod from the Federal Trade Commission, which granted "early termination" to an antitrust review of the merger.

One day later, Verizon revealed in a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission that it had "received commitments from eight financial institutions to provide $17 billion in financing," which Verizon said would provide sufficient capital to complete the deal by "early to mid-January."

3.) Dillard's Horrible Year
Bad news poured on Dillard's Inc. in 2008. The Little Rock retailer's stock price dwindled, its sales continued to fall and its management was hounded by an activist shareholder group with the intensity of a bill collector.

The company was also caught up in the middle of a persistent mystery: the disappearance of John Glasgow, chief financial officer of CDI Contractors LLC of Little Rock.



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