No Grass Under Whitbeck's Feet

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Sep. 1, 2008 12:00 am  

You probably know that Man Industries (India) Ltd. acquired 155 acres to develop a $100 million pipe plant near the Little Rock Port Industrial Park.

Did you know that 72 acres of that was acquired from an entity solely owned by former Little Rock insurance exec Frank B. Whitbeck?

His Butterfield Investments LLC was paid $1 million for the property. Not bad, considering the land was bought less than two years ago for $500,000.

We understand some of that rapid appreciation is caused by improvements to support a grass farm operation on the site.

By the way, the Butterfield moniker is a nod to Whitbeck's middle name and mother's maiden name.

On the flipside of the Aug. 7 sale, Butterfield Investments purchased a nearby 90-acre tract to relocate its Meyer Z-52 Zoysia turf operations. The $420,000 deal on Aug. 11 was with Nalco Inc., led by Mike Nalley.

Turf Wars in Bankruptcy Case

The recent Butterfield transactions came as news to U.S. Bankruptcy Judge James Mixon, who was fascinated by the business dealings among Butterfield Investments, Whitbeck and his Winrock Grass Farms Inc.

Whitbeck recently testified at a bankruptcy hearing for the corporation that the crop of turf on the Butterfield Investment property was an asset of Winrock Grass Farms.

According to Whitbeck, the crop was paid for by Winrock when he converted the company's entire profit during the past year to personal salary and then invested much of the money in the turf crop on the Butterfield property.

Whitbeck conceded there was no paperwork documenting this unusual arrangement, but indicated he would be glad to fix that.

Mixon had problems with the circuitous route of money between Whitbeck and his ventures. He also expressed concern that Whitbeck was "looting" Winrock Grass Farms.

Jim Penick, one of Whitbeck's lawyers, said just because the sale of the Butterfield Property wasn't disclosed during the Aug. 22 hearing didn't mean his client was attempting to hide anything from the judge.

According to Penick, that point of information really isn't important because any unsold turf remaining on the land will be relocated to Butterfield's new property.

Besides, Penick said, the judge dismissed the bankruptcy case Aug. 25.



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