Posted 3/23/2009 12:00 am
Updated 2 years ago
For several years Arkansas Business ran a list, based on several sources, of the wealthiest Arkansans. That practice ended in 2001, a casualty of the combination of two factors: the fall of the stock market and greater difficulty in gathering data.It's déjà vu all over again, except now the market is off 50 percent from its highs, so we're going out on a limb with any list that purports to name the richest among us.
Nevertheless, several names dominated the lists in those early days, as they do now. The following is based on public records, past articles and lists that ran in Arkansas Business.
Because of that guesswork, the names below are in no particular order, though the Walton family is certainly the richest of all, and it's probably safe to assume that at least a couple of others are billionaires in spite of the current recession. As for the rest, they probably have a net worth of $100 million or more.
1. Sam Walton Family
Individually, the children of the late Sam M. Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville, rank Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7 on Forbes magazine's list of richest Americans. As a family they remain not only the wealthiest family in Arkansas but in the United States.
Most of the wealth comes from stock in Wal-Mart, which is the world's largest retailer. Last September, Arkansas Business showed the family stock holdings at $101.1 billion, but the decline in the stock market has affected the Waltons as it has almost everyone else. The family's stock is down to about $82 billion.
Sam Walton's immediate descendants now consist of three children, Rob, Jim and Alice, and John's widow, Christy. Helen, Sam's wife, died in 2007. John died in a place crash in 2005.
Rob is chairman of Wal-Mart and Jim serves on the board. Jim is also chairman and CEO of Arvest Bank Group Inc. of Bentonville, the holding company for the largest Arkansas-chartered bank as well as chairman of Community Publishers Inc.
The family has scattered over the years; while Jim and Rob still call Bentonville home, Alice lives in Fort Worth, Texas, and Christy lives in Wyoming.
2. Witt and Jack Stephens Family
A lot has changed with the Stephens family since the last ranking of Arkansas' wealthiest eight years ago. On that list, the family's net worth was estimated at $2.7 billion. Although the value of their holdings in public companies has declined with the market - and with the cashing out of Alltel - they have other sources of wealth, so their worth may remain close to that $2.7 billion - or not. This recession has changed everything.
Founded in 1933 by W.R. "Witt" Stephens, Stephens Inc., a private company, is the chief source of wealth for the family. His brother, Jackson T. "Jack" Stephens, joined the company in 1956. He died in 2005. The brothers rose from humble beginnings in Prattsville (Grant County) to run one of the largest U.S. investment banking firms off Wall Street.
Since 1986, Warren A. Stephens, one of Jack's sons, has served as CEO of Stephens Inc., directing the firm's strategic expansion. In 2006, he acquired 100 percent of the outstanding stock of Stephens Inc. after a corporate divorce that led Witt's children, Witt Stephens Jr. and Elizabeth Stephens Campbell, to start up The Stephens Group LLC, a private equity investment group. They serve as co-chairmen of the group.
As part of the split, Warren became the owner of Stephens Inc. and all related financial services companies, the Stephens Building and the Capital Hotel.
The families have joint custody of SF Holding Corp., the holding company for the holdings of Warren Stephens, Witt Jr. and Elizabeth, including Stephens Media Group and Stephens Production Co., a natural gas company.
3. Charles Murphy Family
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 is rooted in the stock of the 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 BancorpSouth Inc. of Tupelo, Miss., and Deltic Timber Corp. of El Dorado, the public timber and real estate company spun off from Murphy Oil in 1996.
Last September, the stock holdings of the Murphy family were worth about $1.3 billion. The Wall Street slump has sent the value reeling to more like $650 million.
Charles H. Murphy Sr., who became involved in lumber and banking in 1900, was 50 when Charles H. Murphy Jr. was born, and Charles Jr. was 21 when he was pushed into the company's top spot because of his father's poor health. Charles Murphy Jr. died in 2002.
R. Madison Murphy, a grandson of Charles Sr., took over as chairman in 1994 and remains on the board, although he left the chairmanship in 2002. Madison also serves on the boards of Deltic and BancorpSouth.
Michael W. Murphy, Madison's brother, is president of Marmik Oil Co., a privately owned oil and gas exploration company founded in 1952 by Charles H. Murphy Jr. Other Murphy relatives include Claiborne P. Deming, who was president and CEO of Murphy Oil until this year, Murphy Oil Chairman William C. Nolan and director Caroline G. Theus. Deming and Nolan are nephews of Charles H. Murphy Jr., and Theus is a niece.
4. Winthrop Paul Rockefeller Family
Winthrop Paul Rockefeller, the former lieutenant governor who died in 2006, left an estimated fortune of $1.2 billion to his wife, Lisenne.
His wealth was rooted in an inheritance from his great-grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, the industrialist who founded Standard Oil Co. of Ohio and was the wealthiest man in the world in the early 20th century.
Rockefeller also benefited from the operation of Winrock Farms, the Morrilton farming operation atop Petit Jean Mountain that had belonged to his father, former Arkansas Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller. In addition, he had interests in car dealerships and real estate.
Because Win Paul was an only child, his inheritance was the least diluted of those of any of John D. Rockefeller's great-grandchildren.
Win Paul had three children by his first marriage and five more with Lisenne.
5. Don Tyson Family
The Tyson family wealth was built on chickens, but the company became the world's largest producer of all types of meat after it acquired IBP Inc. in 2001.
Last year, the family fortune in Tyson Foods Inc. stock was worth $1.2 billion, but the value of its stock has been halved since then.
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, giving the company control of 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. John Tyson stepped down as CEO in 2006, but remains chairman.
6. J.B. Hunt Family
Last year, the value of stock in J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. of Lowell moved the founder's family into second place among the top stockholders in Arkansas with an estimated worth of $1.35 billion.
Johnnie Bryan Hunt died in 2006. His widow, Johnelle Hunt, who helped her husband develop and expand the trucking company, retired last year from J.B. Hunt's board of directors.
With the decline in the market, the stock has lost more than half its value, sliced to about $650 million.
Hunt formed his trucking company in 1969. In 1971, Hunt incorporated the company and moved it to Lowell.
J.B. Hunt Transport Services is one of the nation's largest publicly traded truckload carriers and has been a leader in logistics management and the use of intermodal transportation.
The company joined forces with five other large truckload carriers to form a joint venture start-up called Transplace.com, a logistics business, in 2000.
After Hunt retired in 1995, his interests turned to real estate development. The family owns ranches in northwest Arkansas.
Bryan, a son, serves on the board and also is chairman of Global Dealer Group, a private company with operations in motor vehicle sales and service. He also is chairman of Best Buy Here Pay Here of Arkansas, a private company with used-car operations. Additionally, he serves as chairman of Progressive Car Finance, a private company that provides financing for automobile dealers.
7. Walter E. Hussman Jr. Family
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 the umbrella company Camden News Publishing Co., which includes the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; five other smaller newspapers in Arkansas; the Chattanooga Times Free Press in Tennessee; and cable and radio holdings.
As part of Camden News 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.
In 2001, Arkansas Business estimated the Hussman fortune at $890 million. The recession, coupled with a general diversion of advertising dollars to other media, is having a huge impact on newspapers, so there's no telling what his net worth is today.
Camden News President Walter E. Hussman Jr. bought the assets of the Arkansas Gazette from Gannett Co. in 1991 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.
8. Joe T. Ford Family
Joe Ford began his career in telecommunications at Allied Telephone Co. in 1959 and led what became Alltel Corp. to be the fifth-largest telephone company in the nation. That was before its sale, first to a private equity firm in 2007 and then to Verizon Wireless this year.
Allied Telephone was founded by Hugh Randolph Wilbourn Jr., who died in 2001. Ford is married to Wilbourn's daughter, Jo Ellen.
Ford became president and CEO of Allied in 1977. In 1983, he completed the merger of Allied with Mid-Continent Telephone Co. to form Alltel. After the merger, Ford became president and COO of Alltel.
In the mid-1980s, Ford led the company into the wireless industry, and in 1990 led the move to acquire Systematics Inc., putting the company in the information technology business.
In 1987, Ford was named CEO; in 1991 he was named chairman.
His son, Scott Ford, joined Alltel in 1996 as executive vice president and became president in 2002, after Joe Ford retired as CEO. Joe Ford remained chairman until the sale.
Scott reaped an estimated $146.4 million from the sale, and Joe $84 million.
Joe Ford is a director of Textron Inc. of Providence, R.I., and EnPro Industries Inc. of Charlotte, N.C.
This month, Joe and Scott Ford announced they were joining another ex-Alltel exec, Richard Massey, to form an investment company called Westrock Capital Partners LLC.
9. Frank Lyon Family
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 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 during the next 28 years.
The family acquired Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Arkansas in 1969 and sold it in 1989 for a sum reported to be more than $250 million.
TCBankshares, the holding company for Twin City Bank, 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 also 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 was such a large benefactor of what was Arkansas College at Batesville that the school changed its name to Lyon College in 1995.
10. Herbert McAdams Family
Herbert Hall McAdams II died in 2001, but the family still maintains a presence in the state. At the time of McAdams' death, his fortune was valued at $475 million.
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 Union Bank 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.
11. F.S. "Sheridan" Garrison Family
Sheridan Garrison sold American Freightways Inc. in February 2001 to FedEx Corp. of Memphis. Garrison died in 2004.
The $1.2 billion sale more than doubled the estimated wealth of the Garrison family - including his sons, Tom, Will and Daniel; his daughter, Tonya Maxey; and stepson, Travis Ruff. Sheridan founded Arkansas Freightways in 1982, took it public in 1989 and renamed it American Freightways in 1993.
Before the sale, the company posted revenue of $1.4 billion and employed about 1,000 workers at Harrison and some 16,200 across the country. It is still operated out of Harrison as a wholly owned subsidiary of FedEx, but it was relabeled as FedEx Freight.
Sheridan Garrison and his wife, Cindy, donated $1 million 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 to Arkansas Sheriffs' Youth Ranches Inc.
12. Jack Shewmaker
Jack C. Shewmaker worked side-by-side with Sam Walton in building Wal-Mart Stores Inc. As a former president, chief operating officer, vice chairman and chief financial officer and long-time director, he helped transform the company into the world's most successful mass retailer. He still serves as a consultant to Wal-Mart.
His wealth is tied to his Wal-Mart stock. Last year, that was valued at $188.4 million, now down to about $153 million.
He has been president of J-Com Inc., a consulting company, since 1994. He has been a director of Sisters of Mercy Health System Inc. since 2007 and serves on the board of Drury University and the Cleveland Clinic
He also is the owner/operator of Jac's Ranch, a cattle operation that has produced national champions and been recognized for its work in the genetic engineering field.
13. Stephen LaFrance
Stephen L. LaFrance Sr. founded Stephen L. LaFrance Pharmacy Inc. of Pine Bluff in 1968. It does business as USA Drug. It operates about 150 drugstores in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Oklahoma.
Besides USA Drug, it also operates other drugstores - Ike's Discount, Super D Drugs, May's Drug Stores, Drug Warehouse and Med-X Drugs. The private company had revenue last year of about $560 million, according to the most recent estimate by Drug Store News.
The pharmacy chain also franchises locations and fills prescriptions and sells home health care products online at usadrug.com. It markets its own line of merchandise under the Select Brand name.
The company's wholesale distribution operation, SAJ Distributors, supplies health, beauty and general merchandise to discount, drug and grocery stores.
14. Ronald M. Cameron
Ronald Cameron is chairman and CEO of privately held Mountaire Inc. of North Little Rock, a poultry company that posted sales of $1.15 billion last year and is ranked the sixth-largest poultry company in the United States, according to Watt Poultry USA magazine.
Mountaire Farms, a vertically integrated poultry processor, has most of its breeder facilities, hatcheries, feedmills and processing plants in North Carolina, Maryland and Delaware.
Cameron has been named an honorary life member of the National Chicken Council board of directors.
He joined Mountaire in 1968, and became president, CEO and chairman after the death of his father, G. Ted Cameron, in 1978.
He is a former director of Doulos Ministries of Littleton, Colo.
15. Collier Wenderoth Family
Collier Wenderoth Jr. has been one of the pioneers in the Arkansas poultry industry for more than 60 years.
He took a small feed business and developed it into a fully integrated broiler company with worldwide sales. O.K. Foods Inc. posted sales of $928.3 million for its latest fiscal year. It ranks as the 10th-largest poultry firm in the nation, according to Watt Poultry USA and is the sixth-largest private company in Arkansas.
Wenderoth began his career selling feed for O.K. Feed Mills Inc. and, following his father's death in 1955, became president of the company. When his mother resigned as chairman of the board, Wenderoth assumed that title as well and restructured the company under the name O.K. Industries Inc.
In the years that followed and under Wenderoth's leadership, O.K. Industries grew and now employs more than 4,000 in Arkansas and Oklahoma.
He served two terms as president of the Arkansas Poultry Federation and two terms as chairman of the National Broiler Council (now the National Chicken Council). He was inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame this year.
16. Mark Simmons Family
Bill Simmons helped found Simmons Foods Inc. in 1949, and his son, Mark, started working there in 1968. Mark, who took over in 1974 after the death of his father, turned the company into the vertically integrated poultry operation it is today.
Today, Mark's son, Todd, who joined the company in the late '80s and worked his way up the ranks, holds the future.
With $652 million in sales in its latest fiscal year, the Siloam Springs company ranks as the 12th-largest private company in Arkansas.
In the late 1990s, the company shifted its focus. Rather than investing company resources to build its own consumer brands, it made a strategic decision to concentrate on business-to-business customers.
Last year, the company bought the integrated broiler operations of Peterson Farms of Decatur.
17. Frank Fletcher
Frank Fletcher has built a diverse empire through his Frank Fletcher Cos. Ltd.
The company now encompasses Frank Fletcher Auto Group, which owns nine auto dealerships in Arkansas and Missouri; Wyndham Riverfront Hotel; Riverfront Steakhouse; Benihana restaurant; Silverwood Products; Cheyenne Home Furnishings; American National Finance; Fletcher & Bensky Fine Furs; and Factory Showcase.
Fletcher was a manufacturers' representative to Wal-Mart in the 1960s and an investor in Wal-Mart stock in the early 1970s. In the late '70s, he took Sam Walton's advice and switched to manufacturing when Walton told him that the company was going to deal directly with manufacturers.
A horse racing fan, Fletcher owns several thoroughbreds.
Last year, the company had revenue of $710 million, good enough for 10th place among the state's largest private companies.
18. Thomas "Mack" McLarty III
Thomas F. McLarty is chairman of McLarty Cos., a multigenerational family transportation business with interests in 11 auto dealerships. In 2002, Arkansas Business reported that McLarty Cos. generated more than $600 million in revenue.
The recently formed RLJ-McLarty-Landers Automotive Group partnership with Robert Johnson and Steve Landers Sr. has 23 auto franchises in its portfolio. It had about $400 million in revenue, according to a 2008 statement on its Web site. It has a $1 billion annual revenue goal over the next five years.
McLarty serves as senior adviser to the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, is a senior adviser to the law firm Covington & Burling and is chairman of Randall & Dewey, a leading global energy industry advisory firm.
He also is president of McLarty Associates, an international advisory firm.
The former chairman and CEO of Arkla Inc. is also a director of Union Pacific Corp. and Acxiom Corp. Along with real estate and stock holdings, the McLarty family also owns dealerships in Brazil with the privately held Brazil American Automotive Group.
Last year the RLJ-McLarty-Landers Group bought the Little Rock Harley-Davidson dealership from Hickingbotham Investments and will operate the main dealership in Little Rock, as well as additional locations in North Little Rock and Hot Springs.
19. John Ed Anthony Family
Although his true love may be thoroughbred race horses, John Ed Anthony also grew the company his grandfather founded in 1907, Anthony Timberlands Inc., into one of the state's largest forest product companies, with revenue of $158 million last year.
The privately owned company has a hardwood sawmill and a pine sawmill and makes treated products as well. It also owns 200,000 acres of timberland.
John Ed remains chairman, but he's turned most of the operation over to his son, Steve, who is president.
Anthony took the thoroughbred racing industry by storm in the late 1970s. His Loblolly Stables produced horses that became household names with victories at both the Preakness and Belmont. He's a member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
In 2004, John Ed and his wife, Isabel, gave $1 million to the University of Arkansas' botanical garden, Garvan Woodland Gardens at Hot Springs, for the construction of the new Anthony Chapel.
20. Reynie Rutledge
Reynie Rutledge started his banking career with the Worthen organization before buying his first bank in 1977 at the age of 27.
Searcy's First Security Bank became the foundation for today's $2.4 billion-asset First Security Bancorp. It had income of $23.1 million last year. The holding company expanded into northwest Arkansas and deepened its central Arkansas presence with the 2000 acquisition of Little Rock investment banking firm Crews & Associates and a branching program.
Rutledge is chairman, president and CEO of the privately held banking company. Based on the cash equity of First Security, Rutledge's net worth is probably more than $300 million.
21. Wallace Fowler
Banking is a second career for Wallace Fowler. After making a sizable fortune with Fowler Foods, a chain of 65 Taco Bell and KFC franchises in five states, he turned it over to his son, Chris.
And as chairman and CEO of Liberty Bancshares Inc. of Jonesboro, he has proven to be one of the state's most able bankers.
Liberty Bancshares now has $2.6 billion in assets and made $11.5 million last year. With equity capital of $293 million, the bank is worth at least $400 million to $450 million, with the Fowlers' share about 20 percent. Another son, Mark, is vice chairman of the privately owned banking company.
A third son, Wally, has a chain of Subway restaurants not connected with Fowler Foods.
Wallace recently was named to the Arkansas State Police Commission and was a former chairman of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
He and his wife, Jama, gave $1.75 million to the University of Arkansas for the construction of the university chancellor's home on the Fayetteville campus. In 1998, the Fowlers gave $5 million to Arkansas State University to build the $13.5 million Fowler Center, a 79,000-SF performing arts hall.
22. Joe Whisenhunt
Joe Whisenhunt made a fortune in developing commercial and industrial real estate projects. Lately, the development of natural gas wells on his 4,000-acre cattle ranch at Bee Branch is adding to the family wealth.
Yes, his Harmony Meadows ranch is right in the heart of the Fayetteville Shale Play, where the price of an acre in the area, depending on many factors, can run from $2,500 to $6,500.
Through Whisenhunt Investments, he has been involved in developing several projects in west Little Rock, including 120 acres that were formerly part of Shackleford Dairy Farm.
He also made a fortune with the sale of his health care software firm, Integrated Medical Networks LLC, for $65 million back in 1998.
23. Doyle W. Rogers Sr.
Doyle Rogers, chairman of the Doyle Rogers Co., accumulated his wealth through private real estate development, investments, banking and a brokerage firm.
The Doyle Rogers Co. has developed, invested in and managed retail centers, hotel and resort property, office buildings, downtown redevelopment and ski resort property totaling in the millions of square feet.
In the 1980s, the Batesville resident changed the downtown skyline of Little Rock with the development of the Excelsior Hotel (now The Peabody Little Rock) and the adjoining Statehouse Convention Center. He also built the 25-story Rogers Building, now the Stephens Building.
Rogers Bancshares Inc. is the holding company for Metropolitan National Bank, which he serves as chairman. He's also a stockholder and director of Citizens Bank at Batesville. Both banks are private companies.
He is in the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.
His son, Doyle W. "Rog" Rogers Jr., is vice chairman of the Doyle Rogers Co. and also serves on the board of Metropolitan National Bank. The Rogerses also have a 235-acre ski resort at Winter Park, Colo.
24. Delbert Allen Family
The Allen family has been in the canning business at Siloam Springs since 1926.
Allen Canning Co, which changed its named to Allen Inc. in 2006 to reflect its growth and the diversification of its product, posted sales of $610 million for its latest fiscal year, ranking it the 13th-largest private company in the state. It is one of the largest private canners of foods in the world, producing a full line of canned and, more recently, frozen vegetables for the retail food and food service industries.
It operates about a dozen plants close to the growing fields in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas and sells its products under a dozen brand names.
Allen Inc. is now headed by Chairman and President Roderick L. Allen, grandson of the company's founder, Earl, and son of Delbert Allen Sr., who oversaw much of the company's expansion. A fourth generation includes Joshua Allen and Nicolas Allen, both vice presidents and directors.
25. John A. Cooper Family
John A. Cooper Sr. founded Cooper Communities Inc. in 1954. As a founding architect of America's retirement community industry, he changed the character of Arkansas, enticing thousands of residents who had the health, life expectancy and finances to exit the work force and retire.
John A. Cooper III, representing the third generation of the Cooper family, is now president of the company, while John A. Cooper Jr. is chairman. John Sr. died in 1998. In 2004, Cooper was inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame.
Among the communities the company has developed are Cherokee Village, Bella Vista Village, Hot Springs Village and Sienna Lake in Arkansas; Tellico Village in Tennessee; Savannah Lakes Village in South Carolina; StoneBridge Village and Creekmoor in Missouri; and Glade Springs Village in West Virginia.
Those nine developments include more than 95,000 acres and more than 26,000 homes.
Also under the company umbrella is Escapes! Property Management LLC, a vacation ownership subsidiary. Its commercial properties division owns and manages more than 3.6 million SF of property.
Privately held Cooper Communities listed revenue of $158 million last year.