LaFrances Lead Investors Through Wisconsin's Greenwood's State Bank

by George Waldon  on Monday, May. 12, 2014 12:00 am  

What started as a niche lending venture in Wisconsin for the Stephen LaFrance family has morphed into a financial turnaround effort with more extensive Arkansas ties.

The Greenwood’s State Bank of Lake Mills, Wisconsin, was envisioned to serve as a lending platform for pharmacies when the LaFrances joined the investment roster in 2008.

Back then, the family was part of a group of pharmacy businessmen who helped raise $20 million to increase capital at the $45 million-asset bank. But things didn’t go according to plan.

Six years down the road, the LaFrance family is no longer in the pharmacy business after selling its seven-state chain of USA Drug, Super D Drug, May Drug, Med-X and Drug Warehouse stores for $438 million in September 2012 to Walgreen Co. of Deerfield, Ill.

The family’s ownership in Greenwood’s remains and has grown as work continues to improve the bank’s profitability and salvage the original investment.

“We’re one of the largest shareholders, but we’re not on the board of directors,” said Stephen LaFrance Jr. “We’re trying to make the best of a bank that went sideways on us.”

The LaFrances upped their stake in Greenwoods Financial Group Inc. with an additional $685,830 investment last year. The 22,861-share private placement boosted their position in the bank’s parent company to about 16.7 percent.

The family’s Greenwoods Financial holdings are worth about $2.1 million based on the bank’s current estimated book value.

The Arkansas connection to Greenwoods extends beyond the LaFrance family. Capital calls opened the doors wider for a group of Little Rock investors who own a combined 10.3 percent of Greenwoods Financial through AR Badger Investments:

  • Kevin Huchingson, president and CEO of Colliers International-Arkansas;
  • Mark Bentley, managing director and principal broker of Colliers International-Arkansas;
  • Matthew R. Jones, president of Legacy Capital Group;
  • Joseph Courtright, former president and CEO of USA Drug;
  • Dr. Scott Schlesinger;
  • Paul Hart, executive vice president and chief financial officer of RLJ McLarty Landers Automotive/McLarty Cos.;
  • John Pierron, senior vice president at Regions Insurance;
  • Dr. Jerry Prather;
  • Jason Prather, managing principle of Legacy Capital; and
  • Walthour-Flake Co., led by Dickson Flake, a broker at Colliers International-Arkansas.

The names on this list are familiar ones in association with various LaFrance family real estate investments. This Arkansas real estate tie helped send three loans during the past five months to Greenwood's State Bank totaling $2.2 million.

"They're such a small bank they don't have the loan capacity to do many of those out-of-market loans," Huchingson said.

The trio of mortgages is secured by Little Rock properties that include the Express Rx at 7612 Cantrell Road in midtown, the Center for Arkansas Legal Services at 1300 W. Sixth St. downtown and four small office buildings at 16603-23 Cantrell Road in west Little Rock.



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