Wealthiest Arkansans: The Top 10 in Profiles

by Arkansas Business staff  on Monday, Nov. 11, 2002 12:00 am  


Walton Family
$94.8 Billion, Bentonville

The family of the late Sam M. Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, is not only the wealthiest family in Arkansas but in the United States.

The family is worth about $94.8 billion, up 3.85 percent from its estimated wealth in 2002. Most of the money comes from stock in Wal-Mart, which is now the world's largest company when ranked by annual revenue.

The family consists of Helen Walton — Sam's widow — and the couple's four children: Rob, Jim, Alice and John.

Rob and John Walton both serve on the board of Wal-Mart, which was founded in 1962 and went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1970. Jim Walton is chairman of Arvest Bank Group Inc. of Bentonville, the holding company for the largest Arkansas-chartered bank; and Alice Walton has major stock holdings in Leggett & Platt Inc. of Carthage, Mo., a Fortune 500 manufacturer of furniture components, and struggling Cannon Express Inc., a Springdale trucking company.

The Bentonville clan, however, has scattered over the years; Alice lives in Texas, Rob filed for divorce in Nevada and John has homes in Texas and Wyoming.

In April, the family gave $300 million to the University of Arkansas campus to endow a new honors college and graduate school. The donation was one of the largest ever given to an American university.


Stephens Family
$2.7 Billion, Little Rock

Although the family has lost nearly 12 percent of its estimated wealth since this time last year, the Stephens family of Little Rock easily holds on to the No. 2 spot with $2.7 billion.

W.R. "Witt" Stephens and his brother, Jackson T. "Jack" Stephens, rose from humble beginnings in Prattsville to run one of the largest U.S. investment banking firms off Wall Street.

Founded in 1933 by Witt Stephens, Stephens Inc. is the chief source of wealth for the family. Jack Stephens joined the company in 1956 as president.

The family's investments, including Stephens Inc., are held by Stephens Group Inc. The portfolio includes Stephens Media Group (formerly Donrey Media Group); stock in Alltel Corp., Dillard's Inc. and various other public companies; natural gas interests; and Southern Development Bancorporation.


Don Tyson Family
$1.25 Billion, Springdale

The Tyson family wealth was built on chickens, but it has recently diversified into other meats.

With $1.25 billion, the family is the third wealthiest in the state. The family saw its estimated wealth increase 10.72 percent in the past year.

Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale was the poultry industry's giant, but when it bought IBP Inc. in 2001, it also became the largest producer of beef.

Tyson Foods is projecting $25.7 billion in sales for 2002, which would place the company at No. 69 on the most recent Fortune 500 list.

The acquisition also helped the family move up one spot on the list, from fourth place last year.

The company has come a long way since its founder John Tyson Sr. took the company public in 1963. When he was killed in a car accident in 1967, the company had less that 2 percent of the U.S. chicken market. Tyson's son, Don, guided the company to control almost a quarter of the poultry market. His son John Tyson became CEO in 2000 and guided the company through the contentious acquisition of IBP, and the company now controls 27 percent of the nation's beef market, 23 percent of the chicken market and 18 percent of the pork market. Don Tyson retired as senior chairman in 2001.


Murphy Family
$1.2 Billion, El Dorado

While lumber and banking helped the Murphy family fortune grow, it was oil that pushed the family to the forefront in Arkansas.

The family's worth, estimated conservatively at $1.2 billion, is rooted in stock of publicly traded Murphy Oil Corp., a worldwide oil and gas exploration and production company with refining and marketing operations in the United States and the United Kingdom. It also has crude oil transportation and trading operations in Canada.

Other family holdings include stock in Regions Financial Corp. of Birmingham, Ala.; BancorpSouth Inc. of Tupelo, Miss.; and Deltic Timber Corp. of El Dorado, the public timer and real estate company spun off from Murphy Oil in 1996.

Charles H. Murphy Sr., who became involved in lumber and banking in 1900, was 50 when Charles H. Murphy Jr. was born, and C.H. Jr. was 21 when he was pushed into the company's top spot because of his father's poor health.

He stepped down as CEO in 1984 but remained chairman until 1994 when R. Madison Murphy, a grandson of Charles Sr., took over as chairman. C.H. Jr. died March 19 at the age of 82.

Michael W. Murphy, Madison's brother, is a director of Murphy Oil and Regions Financial as well as president of Marmik Oil Co., a privately owned oil and gas exploration company founded in 1952 by C.H. Murphy Jr. He also is the president of Murphy Automotive Group. Other Murphy relatives include Claiborne P. Deming, president and chief executive officer of Murphy Oil, and William C. Nolan, who are both nephews of C.H. Jr., and director Caroline G. Theus, a niece of C.H. Jr.


Winthrop Paul Rockefeller
$1.2 Billion, Little Rock

Lt. Gov. Winthrop Paul Rockefeller is the fifth richest Arkansan, with a fortune estimated at $1.2 billion. He's also the second-wealthiest politician in the United States, running a distant second to Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, whose wealth is estimated at $4.8 billion.

While estimates of Rockefeller's wealth have remained unchanged since 2001, appreciation in the Tyson and Murphy fortunes pushed him from No. 3 to No. 5 on the list of wealthiest Arkansans.

His wealth is rooted in an inheritance from his great-grandfather, John David Rockefeller, the industrialist who founded Standard Oil Co. of Ohio and was the wealthiest man in the early 20th century. Rockefeller also has benefited from the sale of Winrock Farms, the Morrilton farming operation that belonged to the lieutenant governor's father, former Arkansas Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, and what was the largest yacht construction company in the world. Rockefeller also owned Carlisle Bancshares, which was sold to First United Bancshares Inc. of El Dorado in 1996. (First United has since been acquired by BancorpSouth of Tupelo, Miss.)

Since Rockefeller was an only child, his inheritance is the least diluted of any of John D. Rockefeller's great-grandchildren. But Win Paul has eight children, so significant dilution is likely in the next generation.


Walter Hussman Jr. Family
$889.8 Million, Little Rock

One of the most powerful families in Arkansas, the Walter Hussman Jr. family is also a media power in several other markets, reaching hundreds of thousands of people each day through newspaper and broadcast properties.

The bulk of the family fortune rests under Camden News Publishing Co., which includes the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; five other smaller newspapers in Arkansas; the Chattanooga Times/Chattanooga Free Press in Tennessee; and cable and radio holdings.

Under the Camden News umbrella are Wehco Media Inc., the daily newspapers with a combined circulation of more than 350,000; Wehco Video cable system; and KCMC Inc., which controls broadcast holdings.

Camden President Walter E. Hussman Jr. bought the assets of the Arkansas Gazette from Gannett Co. for $67 million and renamed his Little Rock paper the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Hussman is also in an alliance with the Walton-owned Community Publishers Inc. in northwest Arkansas, where they are locked in a circulation battle with the Stephens family's Stephens Media Group.


Lyon Family
$555.4 Million, Little Rock & Boca Raton, Fla.

The late Frank Lyon Sr., who died in 1998, built his early wealth through a deal with Sam Walton. After gaining the Whirlpool and RCA distributorships for most of Arkansas and parts of Kansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Texas, Lyon supplied Wal-Mart with every RCA television it sold in the country from the early 1970s until 1989.

Frank Lyon Jr. graduated from Harvard Business School in 1967, and the next year, he and his father bought Twin City Bank in North Little Rock. With $10 million in assets at the time, it grew 150 times larger over the next 28 years.

Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Arkansas was acquired in 1969 and sold in 1989 for probably more than $250 million.

TCBancshares was sold to Mercantile Bancorporation of St. Louis in 1995. When Mercantile struck a deal to sell to Firstar Corp. of Milwaukee, Lyon was poised to become the largest individual shareholder in Firstar with 14.2 million shares worth about $525 million. U.S. Bancorp of Minneapolis has since succeeded Firstar.

Lyon owns 13,000-acre Wingmead Farm in Prairie County and Summer Wind Farm in Kentucky, where broodmares are acquired to breed with premier stallions.

The family has been such a large benefactor of what was Arkansas College in Batesville that the school changed its name to Lyon College in 1995.


Herbert McAdams Family
$546.1 Million, Little Rock

Although the 86-year-

old patriarch of the McAdams family, Herbert Hall McAdams II, died a year ago, the family still maintains a presence in the state.

His wealth was built largely on a $10 million investment in Little Rock's Union National Bank, which was teetering on the brink of failure in 1970.

A tax lawyer from Jonesboro, McAdams already had built a string of successful banks in northeast Arkansas. He then rebuilt Union National's credibility and transformed it into one of the most stable financial institutions in the state.

McAdams saw the value of his bank holdings roll over multiple times after first selling the family's stake in The Union of Arkansas for $115 million to Little Rock's Worthen Banking Corp.

Worthen sold to Boatmen's Bancshares of St. Louis, which sold to Nations Bancorporation of Charlotte, N.C., which purchased Bank of America in San Francisco. As a result, McAdams gained more from the banking consolidation wave of the '90s than any other Arkansan.


J.B. Hunt Family
$346.6 Million, Fayetteville

A near doubling in the value of stock in J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell has moved the founder's family onto the list of the top 10 wealthiest Arkansans, displacing the family of Bella Vista real estate developer John A. Cooper Jr.

J.B. Hunt, now 75, formed his trucking company in 1962 and enlarged it through the 1969 acquisition of a Kansas trucking company. In 1971, Hunt incorporated the company and moved to Lowell. Hunt remains senior chairman, and his wife, Johnelle, 70, remains on the board.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services is now the largest publicly traded truckload carrier in the United States. It employs more than 16,000 and owns or leases more than 10,750 tractors and some 25,500 trailers and 18,700 containers that provide transportation logistics services, truckload and intermodal transportation, dedicated fleet management, electronic commerce and logistics management. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, revenue was up 6 percent to $1.65 billion. Net income rose from $14.8 million to $37.1 million. Its stock is up 98 percent from the same time last year.

The company joined forces with five other large truckload carriers to form a joint venture startup called Transplace.com, a logistics business, in 2000.

Hunt owns three cattle ranches in northwest Arkansas. Son Bryan is vice chairman of the company and also owns Best Motor Co. of Rogers.

The Hunts are developing a 400-acre Lowell ranch into a 970-lot housing development. Hunt also has a 2,000-acre ranch in southern Missouri that he operates as a hunting club and corporate retreat.


F.S. "Sheridan" Garrison Family
$313.1 Million, Harrison

Sheridan Garrison sold American Freightways Inc. in February 2001 to FedEx Corp. of Memphis.

The sale more than doubled the estimated wealth of the Garrison family — including sons Tom, Will and Daniel; daughter Tonya Maxey; and stepson Travis Ruff. While Sheridan Garrison has sold more than a third of his FedEx stock, appreciation in its value has kept the family's known wealth very near the same level as last year.

Sheridan founded Arkansas Freightways in 1982, took it public in 1989 and renamed it American Freightways in 1993. It is still operated out of Harrison as a wholly owned subsidiary of FedEx, but it was relabeled this year as FedEx Freight.

Sheridan Garrison and his wife, Cindy, donated $1 million this year to the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas to establish the Garrison Chair in Supply Chain Management. Garrison graduated with honors from the UA business college in 1955.

The couple also donated $1.1 million in land and land-clearing equipment this year to Arkansas Sheriffs' Youth Ranches Inc.

Sheridan Garrison was inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame this year.



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