The Best & Worst of 2007

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 24, 2007 12:00 am  

Arkansas Traveler's Bill Valentine and North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays were big news in March when the $33 million Dickey-Stephens Park opened on the north side's downtown.

Worst Fraternity Brother
Let's hope those El Dorado college students don't meet up with someone like Jeff Rand, formerly of Hot Springs. Rand talked college buddies like Phillip Tappan of Little Rock into investing in his oil and gas business, Wave Energy Corp. Then he disappeared. "I had heard that he sold his house and several creditors were looking for him in the Hot Springs area," said Tappan, who had given Rand $80,000.

Worst Warm and Flat Deal
For about a year, negotiations had been going on that would have given Mountain Valley Spring Co. assess to Anheuser-Busch's wholesale distributors. But the deal fell apart in September, and now the Hot Springs bottled water company faces a lawsuit form a former distributor who claims his contract was terminated to make way for the Anheuser-Busch deal. If the deal had gone through, Mountain Valley could have gotten one of the strongest distribution networks in the country.

Best Use of a Geological Formation
Well, aside from the riches being made at the Fayetteville Shale Play, that is. A public-private venture led by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism will place a nearly $15 million golf resort atop scenic Crowley's Ridge in eastern Arkansas. The project includes a 27-hole Andy Dye-designed golf course and a resort that will be run by a private firm, and will be included on the Natural State Golf Trail when it opens this spring.

Worst Doctor
Not only is Patrick Chan of Searcy is facing federal charges for taking kickbacks, but former patients accused him in court filings of performing back surgeries that were unnecessarily. Chan's federal trial is expected to start in January.

Best Offseason
Pine Bluff native Torii Hunter, who was No. 2 on Arkansas Business' list of the state's highest-paid professional athletes this year, will undoubtedly be No. 1 next year after testing the free-agency market this offseason. Hunter, who had spent his entire career with the Minnesota Twins and earned $10.75 million last season, signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels in November.

Best Use of Tough Guys
Republican Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee secured not one, but two infamous tough guys in his surprisingly popular road to the White House.

Former pro wrestler "Nature Boy" Ric Flair helped Huck spread the word at a Clemson-South Carolina football game in November, while former TV Texas Ranger Chuck Norris also joined him on various stops along the campaign trail.

The press release announcing Flair's endorsement even included a spectacular quote that ended, "And like I always say, to be the man, you've got to beat the man and Mike Huckabee is the man. Whoooooooo!"

Worst Gamble
With most of the prime areas of the Fayetteville Shale Play in north-central Arkansas already snatched up by the likes of Southwestern Energy Co. of Houston and Chesapeake Energy Corp. of Oklahoma City, Maverick Oil & Gas Inc. of Addison, Texas, gambled $16 million to lease some 125,000 acres in and around an area known as the Mississippi Embayment, about 25 miles east of the play's primary gas reserves. The gamble backfired. "They put enough holes out there to know that they didn't really like what they saw and to know that they didn't want to be spending any more money out there," said Ed Ratchford, a geologist at the Arkansas Geological Commission. Maverick pulled out of north-central Arkansas and is selling off its properties in other states to generate cash.




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