Arkansas Business: The Best & Worst News of 2012

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 12:00 am  

Clockwise from top left: Mr. Dunderbak's makes its return to McCain Mall, Arkansas Children's Hospital makes grand plans, Gus Malzahn returns to Auburn from a one-year stint at Arkansas State, Jon Brawner thought it was wild goose season and Oxford American makes some changes in its masthead.

Best Show of Faith

Even before Jeff Long had secured the next University of Arkansas head coach, Chancellor Dave Gearhart made a recommendation that the Razorback athletic director be given a healthy raise. Long, pending board of trustees approval in January, will make nearly $1 million per year. That’s before factoring in any of the easy-to-trigger incentive clauses in his new contract.

Long made good on his boss’ trust, hiring three-time Big Ten champion Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin. Hiring Bielema was regarded as one of the best — maybe the best — college football hires in the offseason.

And what if Long hadn’t landed such a big name? Would the raise be justified? Supporters point to the increased revenue of the UA athletic department (Arkansas projected $75.6 million in revenue for 2012-13) and overall standing among all-sports programs (No. 8 in the Capital One Cup) under Long’s leadership as reasons for the very generous raise.

Best Pay Raise

An increase in the value of Dillard’s Inc. stock propelled three members of the Little Rock retailing family into the top 10 of highest-paid executives at Arkansas public companies in 2011. Coming in at Nos. 2 and 3 were Dillard’s President Alex Dillard with $16.4 million and his CEO brother, William Dillard II, with $15.1 million. And at No. 8 was Drue Matheny, a Dillard’s executive vice president and sister of Alex and William whose pay package in 2011 rose to $9.5 million. (No. 1 was, as usual, Mike Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.)

Best Success Rate

Voters in Benton, Madison and Sharp counties favored in-county alcohol sales during November’s general election. Those three counties continued a trend that started in 2006, when Marion County became the first county to go wet since the number of voter signatures required for getting the question on the ballot was raised to a daunting 38 percent in 1993. Since then, every county (including Clark and Boone in 2010) that has gotten the question onto an election ballot has gone wet. That’s 100 percent (or 200 proof) success.

Best Facebook Campaign

That would be the successful campaign of a Facebook page titled Mr. Dunderbak’s in McCain Mall - bring it back!!!!. The nostalgic outpouring inspired Richard Davidson, original owner of the German restaurant that was a mainstay of the North Little Rock mall for almost 30 years, to reopen in the mall’s food court on Dec. 14, and the line of customers eager for one of Mr. D’s signature pretzels was daunting.

Worst Contest Prize

Much to the chagrin of U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Girls Gone Wild impresario Joe Francis in April promised the winner of a “Hottest Girl in America” contest an internship in Pryor’s office as part of a prize package.



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