Truman Arnold Roars Back to Top of Private Companies List

After dropping to No. 3 when the Great Recession slashed fuel prices and tighter corporate aviation budgets, Truman Arnold Cos. came roaring back to the top spot in Arkansas Business' annual list of the state's largest private companies.

(Click here for a PDF list of the state's largest private companies ranked by revenue in fiscal 2010. A spreadsheet version of the list is also available. Click here for features and PDF lists of the largest private companies by region and in selected industries.)

It is a quirk of the list that it has always recognized Texarkana companies on either side of the Arkansas-Texas border, and TAC is on the Texas side. (So is No. 13 E-Z Mart Inc.)

For more about the list of largest private companies, click here.

TAC reported almost $2.3 billion in revenue during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, an 80 percent increase over fiscal 2009 and a number that is certain to be dwarfed in the current fiscal year thanks to record-high petroleum prices.

Stephens Inc., No. 1 last year, dropped one spot. We continue to use the most recent revenue estimate we can find for the Little Rock investment bank, a three-year old figure from The Gale Group of $1.835 billion. And last year's No. 2, Riceland Foods Inc. of Stuttgart, fell to No. 5 after revenue dropped 13.5 percent in the fiscal year that ended July 31.

Riceland's misfortune - 2010's revenue was the lowest since 2007 - allowed Mountaire Corp., the North Little Rock poultry producer, and Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield, the state's dominant health insurance company, to move into the No. 3 and No. 4 positions. Mountaire reported revenue growth of 6.7 percent in 2010, pushing it past the $1.3 billion mark, while Arkansas Blue Cross' top line was up 5.7 percent to $1.2 billion.

Stephen LaFrance Pharmacy Inc., the Little Rock parent company of the USA Drug chain, remained at No. 6. Our estimate of the super-secret company's revenue came from trade journal Chain Drug Review, which held its estimate at 2009's level of $1.05 billion despite the company's sale of 17 Memphis-area stores to Walgreens in March 2010.

The billion-dollar club grew to seven as Simmons Foods Inc. of Siloam Springs reported a 12.8 percent increase in sales that brought its 2010 total just over the $1 billion mark.

On the other end of the list is HealthScope Benefits of Little Rock, which entered the list with $65.1 million, making the cutoff only $100,000 higher than last year.

Dearly Departed
Three regulars on the largest private companies list have disappeared this year:

  • Affiliated Foods Southwest Inc., which was included on the 2010 list only because it had nearly finished its 2009 fiscal year when it declared bankruptcy in May 2009. Affiliated's CEO, John Mills, pleaded guilty to bank fraud, and its former CFO, Lex Martinez, is schedule for trial in U.S. District Court starting Monday.
  • Sparks Regional Medical Center at Fort Smith, which was sold to Health Management Associates Inc. of Naples, Fla., at the end of 2009.
  • National Home Centers Inc. of Springdale, which was sold out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy to Stock Building Supply of Raleigh, N.C., in April 2010.

Stephens Group LLC, the Little Rock private investment company owned by Witt Stephens Jr. and Elizabeth Stephens Campbell, was dropped from the list because independent estimates of its annual revenue varied too wildly to be reliable and the uber-private Stephenses have provided no guidance.

HealthScope Benefits, a third-party insurance administrator for self-insured businesses, filled one of those vacant spots. Its 2010 revenue of $65.1 million was an increase of 22.2 percent over 2009, and the company announced last week that it would be hiring an additional 50 employees - a sure sign of continued growth in 2011.
Filling the other voids are:

  • RLJ McLarty Landers Automotive, a nearly $900 million automotive retailer that debuts at No. 10 and undoubtedly should have been on the list for several years.
  • Everett Buick Pontiac GMC of Bryant, another beneficiary of consolidation in the automotive industry, which enters the list at No. 43 with $203.1 million in 2010 revenue; and
  • Northwest Oil Co. of Fayetteville, which tied for No. 66 with revenue estimated at $100 million.

Swan Song
One company is making its final appearance on the private companies list: Forrest City Grocery Co., which ranks 15th this year.

The company, owned by the Cohn family of Forrest City, announced in April that the bulk of the company, the wholesale grocery business, would be sold to publicly traded Core-Mark Holding Co. Inc. of South San Francisco, Calif.

Allen Cohn, vice president of Forrest City Grocery, said the sale, which is expected to close this summer, did not include two subsidiaries, Tobacco Superstores and Memphis Cash & Carry. Cohn said he would own and operate both those businesses.

In announcing the deal, Core-Mark said the wholesale grocery business generated about $540 million in annual revenue. Forrest City Grocery reported revenue of $725 million in 2009 (and declined to reveal its 2010 revenue), suggesting that the remaining subsidiaries might be large enough to be on future lists of the state's largest private companies.

Forrest City Grocery President David J. Cohn is gravely ill with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), Allen Cohn told Arkansas Business last month.