CEO List Sees Big Changes From Late '06

(See the profiles of the state's top CEOs by clicking here. You can also view a pdf of the "CEOs at a Glance" by clicking here.)

The number of publicly traded companies in Arkansas has slipped to an even 20 - one fewer than when Arkansas Business last profiled their chief executive officers in December 2006. But the roster of CEOs has changed much more.

  • Alltel Corp. and its CEO, Scott Ford, are now part of the privately held sector.
  • Champion Parts Inc. of Hope is out of business.
  • Equity Media Holdings Corp. of Little Rock went public in 2007, but disastrous losses led to the naming in February of a new CEO, Henry G. Luken III.
  • Advanced Environmental Recycling Technologies Inc. of Springdale has returned to a single CEO, Joe G. Brooks.
  • William H. "Hank" Henderson has replaced Tilman Falgout as CEO of America's Car-Mart Inc. of Bentonville.
  • Charles Morgan, who had been the longest-serving chief executive of a publicly traded company in Arkansas, was replaced at the helm of Acxiom Corp. in February by outsider John Meyer.
  • Robert M. Powell, CEO of USA Truck Inc. of Van Buren for 18 years, has been succeeded twice in barely over a year - first by Jerry Orler and ultimately by Clifton R. Beckham.

Change in the corner office is not merely an Arkansas phenomenon. International placement consultants Challenger Gray & Christmas reported last week that CEO departures for 2007 are up 2.7 percent for the first four months of 2008 when compared with the same period in 2007.

(The most volatile sector, the company's research showed, has been health care, an industry completely unrepresented in Arkansas' publicly traded companies although the state has certainly seen plenty of turnover of hospital CEOs.)

Even with the newcomers, and the loss of Morgan's 32 years, the average tenure among Arkansas' CEOs is more than nine years. That's significantly longer than the five-year average tenure among CEOs of companies in the Standard & Poor's 500, according to a study released in January by Spencer Stuart, another international headhunter firm.

The longest-serving CEO of a public company in Arkansas is George Gleason, who has been running Bank of the Ozarks for 29 years. (It wasn't publicly traded until July 1997.) The newest is Luken, a major investor in Equity Media who replaced Larry Morton as CEO on Feb. 11, exactly one week after Meyer replaced Morgan after the failure last fall of the leveraged buyout of Acxiom by two private equity funds.

When it comes to age, Arkansas CEOs are right in line with the S&P average of 55 years. The old man of the Arkansas CEOs is Dillard's Inc.'s William Dillard II, 63, although five others are also 60 or older. The youngest is Cliff Beckham at USA Truck, 37 and the only 30-something in the group.

Compensation Generous

CEOs of publicly traded companies tend to be well compensated, and Arkansas' crop is no exception. The average compensation for the 18 whose 2007 compensation is a matter of public record was almost $4.4 million. (Arkansas Business' definition of total compensation includes the value realized by exercising stock options and any other compensation reported by the company.)

That's a fraction of the $12.8 million average among Fortune 500 CEOs, but, with the sale of Alltel, only four of Arkansas' public companies - Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Tyson Foods Inc., Murphy Oil Corp. and Dillard's - are in the Fortune 500. (Four more, J.B. Hunt Transport Services of Lowell, Windstream Corp. of Little Rock and Arkansas Best Corp. and Baldor Electric Co., both of Fort Smith, are in the Fortune 1000.)

That average compensation disguises a huge range, from $33.6 million earned by H. Lee Scott Jr. - CEO of the largest company on Fortune's list, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Bentonville - to $206,275 paid to Joe Brooks at embattled building material manufacturer AERT. Beckham spent more than half of 2007 as president of USA Truck before being promoted to CEO, so his $251,558 compensation may not reflect his current pay. Similarly, Henderson was paid $255,000 as president of America's Car-Mart in the fiscal year that ended April 30, 2007. His salary as CEO is at least $300,000, according to information filed with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, but the company has not released compensation information for the fiscal year that ended last month.

At Acxiom, Meyer is being paid a base salary of $700,000. Luken's compensation at Equity Media has not been made public.

In July, Arkansas Business will publish its full list of public company executive compensation. Here's a preview: Wal-Mart's Lee Scott won't even be in the top five. Those spots are all taken by executives of Alltel Corp. - Scott Ford, Jeffrey Fox, Kevin Beebe, Richard Massey and Sharilyn Gassaway - who received fabulous parting gifts when the company was sold in November.