Stephens Group Invests Millions

by George Waldon  on Monday, Aug. 27, 2007 12:00 am  

W.R. "Witt" Stephens Jr, co-chairman and CEO of The Stephens Group LLC

The Stephens Group grew out of desire by Witt Stephens Jr. and his sister, Elizabeth Stephens Campbell, 48, to strike out on their own. Witt Stephens Jr. describes the move as a natural evolution of a family business.

"It's a time to do your own thing," he said. "Different things happen to make it apparent it's the time to do it."

A memorandum of understanding regarding a division of assets was formed in May 2006, 10 months after the death of their uncle, Jack Stephens.

The siblings sold their interest in Stephens Inc., the investment banking firm founded in 1933 by their legendary father, Witt Stephens Sr. The firm was later led by Jack Stephens from 1956-86 and since then by his son, Warren.

As part of the division, The Stephens Group acquired sole ownership of two legacy investments in Houston: ISS LLC, an oil and gas exploration and production company, and Jebco Seismic Ltd., touted as one of the largest independent international geophysical contractors.

With those two exceptions, the intertwined Stephens family investment portfolio (referred to as legacy investments) remains intact through SF Holding Corp.

The Stephens Group formed in May 2006 and physically separated from the Stephens Building in February, moving from downtown Little Rock to the Riverdale area.

The company signed a multi-year lease for the fifth floor and a piece of the first floor of the Morgan Keegan Building, where 50 staffers will work. Half the fifth-floor space remains a remodeling work in progress.

Last year, a 2-acre property at 1000 North St., the one-time home of the Balch Mazda service center, was purchased for $1.46 million. That would-be office site remains dormant.

"We wanted to get a nice, convenient location," Witt Stephens Jr. said. "We're very happy here for now."

"We're Conservative"

While private equity investing is the focus of The Stephens Group, the firm's interest in Arkansas companies extends to dabbling in venture capital. The Stephens Group is among the investors in the $75 million Diamond State Ventures II fund, set to close Sept. 30.



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