John Glasgow Letter Shows Strained Relationship Between Dillard's, CDI

(Copyright 2008 Arkansas Business Publishing Group)

(Note: This story also linked at ArkansasBusiness.com/JohnGlasgow.) 

The relationship between the management of CDI Contractors LLC of Little Rock and half-owner Dillard's Inc. was under tremendous stress in the days before CDI's chief financial officer disappeared on Jan. 28.

On Friday, Jan. 18, Melinda Glasgow saw her husband, John, in tears for only the second time in 16 years, after a particularly difficult meeting with Dillard's executives; the first was when his mother died. "He told me, ‘Today has been the worst day of my life.'"

A week later, on Jan. 25, John Glasgow completed a draft of a letter to Dillard's CEO William Dillard II on behalf of William Clark, CEO of CDI since the death in May of his father, company founder Bill Clark. It referred to a meeting that had included Clark, Glasgow, William Dillard and Dillard's CFO James Freeman.

"For Freeman to come down here and say we are dishonest, and for you [Dillard] to sit there and not say anything, hurt us to the core. We have never been so offended in our lives," Glasgow wrote for Clark.

It continued: "Now I'm concerned that our foundation is on shaky ground. I want to keep this partnership together and continue building on my dad's legacy, and I believe that is what he would want me to do. Will you please let me do that? If we can move forward, then I have a plan for how to do it. First, you have to call off the dogs."

Whether Clark sent the letter or anything similar to Dillard's is not known. Dillard's and CDI, in a joint response issued Thursday (PDF) to questions submitted by Arkansas Business, said: "Neither Dillard's nor CDI believe any money was misappropriated by John Glasgow or any other member of CDI's management."

The response was the first statement from Dillard's or any of its management team regarding Glasgow since his disappearance.

Glasgow's draft letter, provided to Arkansas Business by Melinda Glasgow, reveals John Glasgow's mindset three days before he vanished.

"Freeman's accountants have been down here for the past two weeks looking through everything we have, and that's fine because we have nothing to hide and never have," he wrote.

And in an introductory note to Clark, he wrote, "I'm not that concerned about what Freeman thinks about me, but I am concerned about what Bill [Dillard] thinks of you and your team."

A forensic audit, ordered by CDI and conducted by a Kansas City company, of John Glasgow's company-issued laptop computer, the desktop computer in his office and the company's books came up clean, according to Melinda Glasgow.

‘All the Odd Stuff'

More than 700 people were missing in Arkansas on the last day of January, and that's typical of any given day. But the disappearance of John Glasgow is anything but typical.

"What makes it odd? All the odd stuff," said George Stowe-Rains, a search and rescue specialist with the Arkansas Forestry Commission who helped lead the search for Glasgow on Petit Jean Mountain in late January.

Most missing persons are young - two-thirds are under age 21 - and more than half are female, according to the Arkansas Crime Information Center. Minorities are more common among the missing than among the general population.

Glasgow - white, male and 45 - was already part of a small minority of missing persons. Of the 701 who were missing in the state as of Jan. 31, 46 were white men in their 40s, according to the ACIC's Sharron Stallings. But he was the only one who was chief financial officer of one of the state's largest private companies.

And it's probably safe to assume he's the only one who banked a $300,000 annual bonus just days before he was reported missing.

"There's just so much bizarreness that went against his character, or what the family described as his character," said Stowe-Rains, who is county ranger for Benton County and a 20-year veteran of search-and-rescue operations. "Not finding any good sign of him, the dogs not hitting any kind of trail, was just bizarre."

John's oldest brother, Little Rock lawyer Roger Glasgow, agrees:

"Every scenario you can imagine has a great big hole in it that you just can't bridge. It seems to me he had every reason to stay and no reason to run away."

‘Stand-up' Guy

John Glasgow had been CFO of CDI Contractors for 12 years and "a trusted member of the CDI family for more than 17 years," according to a statement issued by William Clark on Jan. 31.

Friends and relatives describe him as soft-spoken, frugal and fastidious; honest, dependable and loyal; devoted to his wife, stepson and large family; self-sufficient, competitive and adventurous. He loved to travel, and he loved cats.

"John is a very stand-up, good neighbor and a good friend," said Brian Rosenthal, Glasgow's next-door neighbor for more than 12 years.

Rosenthal saw, or thought he did, John's familiar Volvo SUV leaving the house he shared with Melinda at 5:15 a.m. Jan. 28, a Monday. By 4:30 that afternoon, a tourist's photo proves, it was parked - unlocked with his laptop computer, company-issued cell phone and credit card and a personal debit card inside - in the parking lot in front of Mather Lodge in Petit Jean State Park.

Speculation about Glasgow's whereabouts has become almost a parlor game, but as for solid clues, that's it. Thousands of man-hours, professional and volunteer, spent searching the state park and canvassing businesses in the area turned up nothing. Absolutely nothing.

"The only thing putting him on that mountain was his car. We have a picture so we know it was there, but we really don't have any hard evidence [that John was]," Stowe-Rains said. "And, you know, your car can be someplace and you can be someplace completely different."

No usable fingerprints were recovered from the Volvo; Glasgow's cell phone made no calls on the day he disappeared; his bank account and MasterCard haven't been used; his passport was in his safe at home.

A reward totaling $70,000 for information leading to his location hasn't even scared up the crazies and posers the family expected, Roger Glasgow said.

The family is convinced that John is alive, but possibly not well, and they doubt he was ever on Petit Jean. If he was, it was only to get out of his car and into another one.

"I think he's alive," Roger Glasgow said after almost four weeks of searching. "I do not think he's dead or on that mountain."

"We have a better marriage than anyone I know, better than relatives or friends," Melinda Glasgow said Wednesday. "That's why I think he's still alive. I think I would feel it if he wasn't. ... There is no doubt in my mind that he loves me more than anything. I don't think he would do this ‘just because.' There's a reason."

What that reason is, she doesn't know. But for him to put his large, close-knit family through the hell of not knowing where he is has led her to a single conclusion:

"I have to feel like if this was a choice, that it was better than the alternative. So I shudder to think what the alternative might have been."

Farm-Raised

John Glasgow is the fifth son and youngest child of Thomas Cortlyn Glasgow and his Iowa-born wife, Fern Carol Rosik Glasgow, both deceased. He was born and educated in Nashville (Howard County), but grew up on a farm about five miles away in the community known as County Line.

Among Glasgow's classmates in the Nashville High School class of 1980 was Melinda Hayes, but they didn't date then and each would have a failed marriage before they rediscovered each other in Little Rock more than 10 years later. Their first date was to Roger Glasgow's 50th birthday party in January 1992, and they married that summer.

In the meantime, John had earned a business degree from the University of Central Arkansas at Conway in 1985 and began an accounting career with the firm now known as BKD LLP. (James Freeman, 57 at the time of Dillard's 2007 proxy statement, also worked there.) Glasgow earned an MBA from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and was licensed as a certified public accountant (although his license has been inactive since 2000).

As an outside auditor, Glasgow was assigned to a new construction company formed in 1987 as a 50-50 partnership between Bill Clark and Dillard's Inc., primarily to build stores for the Little Rock retailer.

Clark hired John away from BKD in 1990. He would be named controller in 1992, the same year he married Melinda and began raising her 12-year-old son, Jeffrey Thomas Franklin.

In June 1995, John and Melinda bought their house on South Lookout Street, a little over a mile from CDI's offices at 3000 Cantrell Road, for $179,000 (and paid it off in 2003). Late in 1995, John would be named chief financial officer of CDI after he helped uncover a seven-figure embezzlement by the previous CFO, Kevin Wheeler.

(Wheeler, 32 at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty in 1996 to stealing more than $1.3 million from CDI, drew a 10-year sentence in state prison and was out after six months. Ten years later he drew a 36-month sentence in federal prison for embezzling almost $300,000 from MCDR Contractors & Construction Managers of Memphis. He was released from the federal prison camp at Montgomery, Ala., in March 2007.)

Ownership Change

CDI's annual revenue was $243 million in 1995, when Glasgow became CFO. It would reach a record of $580 million in 2007, despite the blow of its founder's death. Bill Clark's half-interest in CDI passed to his widow, Margaret, and his son, William Clark, was immediately elevated to CEO.

Glasgow was, by all accounts, very well compensated, but his brother said the $300,000 bonus he received in January was unusually large. The money, like his regular paychecks, was direct-deposited into a joint checking account he shared with Melinda, Roger Glasgow said.

A plan to disburse Clark's share of the company was in the works when John vanished; in fact, Arkansas Business published a "Whisper" about it in the issue dated Jan. 28, the day Glasgow went missing.

In their joint response, Dillard's and CDI said, "Dating from CDI's inception and since the original agreement between the parties was written there have always been buyout provisions. The agreement gives Dillard's the right to purchase Bill Clark's interest from his estate following his death. However, Dillard's and some of the officers and employees of CDI are discussing an arrangement whereby Dillard's would permit these individuals to purchase Bill Clark's interest from the estate and, thus, continue in the partnership with Dillard's."

Those discussions are continuing, the joint response said.

The plan that was emerging, according to Roger Glasgow, called for William Clark to receive roughly half of the Clark shares while John Glasgow and a number of other CDI employees would each buy much smaller shares.

John was deeply involved in CDI's routine year-end audit as well as the valuation of the company, according to his brother, and he represented his fellow executives in talks with Simmons First National Bank for loans to buy shares from the Clark estate. (William Clark was named to the board of directors of Simmons First National Corp. in early January.)

John fully intended to spend the rest of his working life with CDI, Melinda said. But on "the worst day of his life," they took comfort in the knowledge that they would be fine even if his job there ended.

"We talked about that. We're young; we're smart; we have money in the bank. I have a good job; he gets headhunter calls a couple of times a year. We have options," she said. "He was committed to that company, but he knew on an intellectual level that he didn't have to be. And he knew that I was with him no matter what. He knew that too."

Dillard's and CDI, in their joint response, said it was "simply not true" that Glasgow's position as CFO was threatened by the change in ownership structure.

Last Known Movements

On Jan. 26, the Saturday before he disappeared, John Glasgow spent much of the day at the CDI office. According to Roger, he used an electronic key to enter the building, leave for lunch, then come back to work the rest of the afternoon before going home.

John was also at the office much of the day on Sunday, but he entered and left several times - sometimes for a minute or two, possibly to smoke the cigarettes he had found impossible to quit for good. No surveillance camera was trained on the employee entrance he used.

That evening, he and Melinda went across the street for a dinner party hosted by John's older cousin, Richard "Dick" Norton. When he got back home, John fell asleep in front of the television with his favorite cat on a blanket on his lap.

Melinda went to bed upstairs and hasn't seen him since.

Brian Rosenthal, an attorney with the Rose Law Firm, set multiple alarm clocks so that he would wake up early on Monday, Jan. 28. He and a client were heading out of town.

While he was making sure that he had turned off all the alarms, Rosenthal heard a car outside.

"I thought that was pretty unusual," he said, but then again, "I'm not up that early all that often, so I couldn't say for sure." It was 5:10 or maybe as late as 5:15 a.m.

He thought maybe a neighbor was being picked up for an early-morning trip to the gym, but when he looked out he saw John Glasgow driving east on South Lookout toward Point Circle, the way he generally headed for work.

At least he assumed it was John. When the family started looking for John later that day, Rosenthal realized that he hadn't actually seen the driver and he hadn't studied the car carefully enough to say without a doubt that it was Glasgow's.

"I saw the car leaving from in front of John's house. I didn't think about it being John's car, but it was a Volvo type. ... I only saw the car. I assumed it was John, yes. When someone asked me later if I had seen John, my answer would have been, yes, I saw him drive off."

A ping from John's cell phone was recorded on an Alltel tower in Little Rock at 5:15 that morning, Roger Glasgow said, so the family doesn't doubt that Rosenthal saw John leaving home. But he never entered the CDI offices that day, and his car hasn't been spotted on surveillance videos along the route to the office.

When Melinda got up, her husband and the Volvo were gone. Since his bathroom was downstairs and he took care of his own wardrobe, she wasn't at all surprised that he could have gotten ready for work and left without waking her.

She went to her own job, which she has since resigned, in the public relations department at Heifer International's headquarters in downtown Little Rock.

Missing Person

About 2:30 that afternoon, Christy Clark, whom John Glasgow had hired as an accountant at CDI and who later married William Clark, called Melinda to ask where John was. He hadn't come to the office that day and no one was able to reach him on his cell phone.

Because CDI is so close to the Glasgows' home, Christy Clark dispatched a search party to his house, but no one was home. Melinda Glasgow called her brother-in-law Roger and John's best friend, PR executive Mitch Chandler, and had them meet her at their house.

"I knew that if he wasn't at work, something was wrong. That's just not John. He's the most responsible person I have known in my entire life," Melinda said.

After the three called in vain anyone who might know where he went, Chandler called the Little Rock Police Department. The responding officer was persuaded to make a missing person report even though John had been missing only for about 12 hours. The report bears the time 5:54 p.m.

The police report sounded ominous: "J. Glasgow had recently been stressed over events occurring at work but he never made any statements about harming himself. ... M. Glasgow advised that J. Glasgow wrote a bank account number and the code to their personal safe on a pad of paper and left it on the table along with some checks to be mailed. M. Glasgow also advised that a 22 rifle was missing from the residence."

The last part irritates Melinda. It was Chandler, she said, who told the police about the only firearm John owned, a single-shot antique that was later found in an armoire in the Glasgow home.

"It was ridiculous of Mitch to even mention it," Melinda said. "It was never a concern for me."

And the significance of the account number and safe code is unclear. Roger Glasgow said they were written in John's handwriting on the second page of a notepad on which Melinda kept her "to-do list," but it's not known when he wrote them. They weren't left in a conspicuous location, Melinda said.

"There wasn't one single thing that alarmed me at all. Nothing," she said, not even with the benefit of hindsight. "I've retraced it a hundred times - well, should I have looked here or noticed that? - and nothing."

The account was the joint account with Melinda, and the number wasn't secret - it was printed on their checks. The combination to the safe was also kept elsewhere in the house.

"Really, I guess we kind of hyped the significance of those items to expedite the missing-persons report," Roger said. "Except for the rifle. That did concern me."

The Only Clue

Because CDI owned the Alltel cell phone John Glasgow carried, William Clark called Scott Ford, CEO of Alltel Corp. of Little Rock, and asked him to expedite a trace. By Tuesday investigators knew that the phone had bounced an electronic "ping" off a cellular tower near Petit Jean on Monday, although it had not been used to make any calls since Sunday.

That information quickly led to the discovery early Tuesday afternoon of Glasgow's Volvo. Melinda said that news persuaded her that John would be located in short order. Her worst fear was that he was injured.

But the official search - involving the Conway County Sheriff's Office, the Arkansas State Police, state and national park rangers, forestry officials and various county search-and-rescue units - was finally called off after five days.

George Stowe-Rains of the Arkansas Forestry Commission arrived at Petit Jean on Wednesday night to act as "incident commander." He won the respect of Melinda Glasgow, who called him the best official who worked on the search, but he laughs off Roger Glasgow's description of him as a kind of psychological profiler.

"I know a lot about lost-person behavior, and we use a lot of statistical data," Stowe-Rains said. "It's not that we profile, but we know a lot about what lost people do, whether they are hikers, hunters, berry-pickers, whether they go uphill or whatever."

Stowe-Rains brought in a dog and handler with whom he has had success in the past, to no avail. While even intense searches can sometimes miss the mark, Stowe-Rains doesn't think John Glasgow was there to be found.

"If he was on that mountain, we'd have found him. I feel relatively certain that we would have," he said.

The Glasgow family later paid to bring in trained dogs and handlers from Maine and Virginia, and their inability to find any sign at all finally persuaded the family to abandon the search on Petit Jean. Even John's brother Randy Glasgow of Nashville, "who wouldn't leave the mountain and couldn't leave the mountain," was persuaded to come down, Melinda said.

Stowe-Rains said last week that the Glasgow case still had him "befuzzled."

"There's something fishy," he said, but he's no conspiracy theorist. In fact, he said, 80-plus searches over 20 years have taught him that "the more conspiratorial you get, the farther you get from what actually happened."

"In search and rescue, you learn to keep it simple. If [a lost person's] car is parked at the trailhead, then he's probably hiking on the trail. If the car is parked at the lodge" - as Glasgow's was - "then he's probably staying at the lodge. Or he's going to go for a walk near the lodge and come back to his car in a little while. ...

"Either [Glasgow] accomplished his plan to disappear or something went completely wrong on him clearing his head and he's up on the mountain. But I just don't think that."

Searchers quickly considered whether Glasgow might have flown away; there is an uncontrolled private airstrip on Petit Jean. But Stowe-Rains said, "We really didn't put any validity into that because if he was going to fly out of there, he would have parked closer to the strip."

There's no evidence to suggest that anyone beside John Glasgow drove his car to Mather Lodge. "Nothing leads us to believe that, with his personal items in it. And that's another thing - if you are wanting to dump a car, why would you dump the car in the fricking parking lot?"

Nor is there any reason to think Glasgow was suicidal, Stowe-Rains said. And both Melinda Glasgow and her brother-in-law Roger do not entertain the idea that John could have killed himself.

"No. Absolutely not. I know that without a doubt. No," Melinda said.

And there are several more theories she dismisses out of hand.

"There is zero doubt in my mind that there's another woman. There is zero doubt in my mind that there was any money thing. ... Our house is paid for; our cars are paid for; we have zero debt. We don't have money problems, and would he take money that wasn't his? Absolutely not."

The week after John Glasgow disappeared, his name was removed from the list of officers on CDI's company Web site. The acting CFO is Chris Johnson, formerly of the Dillard's finance staff.

More

A Web site set up by the family, at FindJohnGlasgow.com

Previous ArkansasBusiness.com Coverage

Tourist Photo Aids in John Glasgow Search

Glasgow Family, Nonprofit Increase Reward to $70,000

Candlelight Vigil for John Glasgow Scheduled

$5,000 Reward Offered for Information on Missing John Glasgow

CNN Show Publicizes Glasgow Search

Family Works to Spread Word About Missing CFO John Glasgow

UPDATED: Official Search for Glasgow Ends; Volunteers Continue Efforts at Petit Jean

UPDATED: Search for John Glasgow Continues at Petit Jean Park

UPDATED: Police Continue Search for Missing CDI Contractors CFO John Glasgow

Democrat-Gazette on Glasgow Coverage: Some Missing Cases Are Newsworthy, Others Not

Community News (Gwen Moritz Editors Note)

From ArkansasBusiness.com Blogs

Roy Ockert Considers the John Glasgow Case

A John Glasgow Update: Tourist Photo Helps in Search

The Democrat-Gazette Talks About the John Glasgow Case

UPDATED: Comments on John Glasgow

Candlelight Vigil for John Glasgow

A John Glasgow Update: Family Offers Reward

John Glasgow Search on 'Nancy Grace'

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