Posted 11/12/2001 12:00 am
Updated 2 years ago
$1.125 Billion, El Dorado
The Murphy fortune grew from seeds planted in the early 1900s when Charles H. Murphy Sr. became involved in lumber and banking. But it was oil that built the family fortune.
The family's worth, now estimated conservatively at $1.125 billion, is grounded in stock of publicly traded Murphy Oil, a worldwide oil and gas exploration and production company with refining and marketing operations in the United States and the United Kingdom and crude oil transportation and trading operations in Canada. A Fortune 500 company, Murphy Oil had revenue of nearly $6 billion last year.
Other family holdings include stock in Regions Financial Corp. of Birmingham, Ala., which purchased First Commercial Corp. of Little Rock in 1998; BancorpSouth Inc. of Tupelo, Miss., which bought First United Bancshares Inc. of El Dorado in 2000; and Deltic Timber Corp. of El Dorado, the public timber and real estate company spun off from Murphy Oil in late 1996.
C.H. Murphy Jr., son of the original Murphy oilman, molded the company into what it is today, creating Murphy Oil and taking it public in 1952. He was among the first four inductees into the University of Arkansas' Arkansas Business Hall of Fame in 1999.
Charles Sr. was 50 when Charles Jr. was born, and C.H. Jr. was only 21 when his father's poor health thrust him to the company's helm. In 1972, C.H. Jr. relinquished the duties of president and began serving as chief executive officer and chairman. In 1984, he stepped down as CEO but remained chairman until 1994, when R. Madison Murphy, a grandson of Charles Sr., took over as chairman. C.H. Jr. remained a member of the board until 2000.
Michael W. Murphy, Madison's brother, is a director of Murphy Oil and Regions as well as president of Marmik Oil Co., a privately owned oil and gas exploration company founded in 1952 by C.H. Jr. He also heads Murphy Automotive Group. Other Murphy relatives include Claiborne P. Deming, president and chief executive officer, and William C. Nolan, both nephews of C.H. Jr., and director Caroline G. Theus, a niece of C.H. Jr.
Madison Murphy provided the impetus behind the Murphy Commission, a panel of executives from the private sector that reviewed every aspect of Arkansas state government and made recommendations on how government could be run more efficiently.
Walter Hussman Jr. Family
$873.3 Million, Little Rock
One of the most pow-erful 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 family fortune rests under Camden News Publishing Co., which includes the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; five other smaller newspapers in Arkansas; the Chattanooga Times/Chattanooga Free Press in Tennessee; and cable and radio holdings. In 1999, Camden News' revenue was estimated at $200 million. Founded in 1929, the company employs about 1,650.
Under the Camden News umbrella are Wehco Media Inc., the daily newspapers, with a combined circulation of 325,339 (excluding northwest Arkansas); Wehco Video cable system, with 118,249 subscribers; and KCMC Inc., which controls broadcast holdings.
Camden president Walter E. Hussman Jr. won one of the country's most intense newspaper wars in 1991 when he bought the assets of the Arkansas Gazette — the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi River — from Gannett Co. for $67 million. He then renamed his Little Rock paper the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Hussman has spent time between Little Rock and Chattanooga since 1998, when he bought the Free Press and Times. The Free Press was the chain's first purchase in seven years.
In July 2000, Hussman began selling his radio and TV properties. His NBC affiliate, KTAL-TV, Channel 6, in Shreveport-Texarkana sold to Nexstar Broadcasting Inc. for $35.25 million. Two of his three radio stations, KTAL-FM, 98.1, and its AM counterpart, also of Shreveport-Texarkana, is now owned by Access1 Communications Corp.
Hussman also is locked in a circulation battle in northwest Arkansas with an even wealthier Arkansas family, the Stephenses.
In August 2000, Hussman announced an alliance with the Walton family, which owns Community Publishers Inc. and publishes the Northwest Arkansas Times and Benton County Daily Record. Under the alliance, the Democrat-Gazette's zoned edition, launched in 1998, and the CPI papers teamed to square off against the Stephens family, which owns Donrey Media Group and publishes The Morning News.
$504.7 Million, Little Rock & Boca Raton, Fla.
Frank Lyon Sr., who died in 1998, launched his business career selling suits door-to-door. He later became General Foods' youngest district manager.
Having borrowed $5,000 to go into business for himself, he ultimately wound up with the Whirlpool and RCA distributorships for 90 percent of Arkansas and parts of Kansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Texas.
Lyon brokered a deal with his old friend Sam Walton in the early 1970s to supply Wal-Mart Stores Inc. with every RCA television it sold in the country until 1989.
His son, Frank Lyon Jr., graduated from Harvard Business School in 1967, and the next year, he and his father acquired Twin City Bank in North Little Rock. An institution with $10 million in assets at the time, it grew 150 times larger over the next 28 years with T.E. Renaud at the helm.
Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Arkansas was acquired in 1969, and Coca-Cola plants in Texarkana and Shreveport and Natchitoches, La., were added later.
In 1989, the soft drink venture was sold to Coca-Cola Enterprises for probably more than $250 million. Frank Lyon Jr. has said the decision to sell was made because he been diagnosed with what doctors believed was terminal cancer. However, Lyon recovered fully, and the timing of the sale turned out to be very favorable.
TCBancshares was sold to Mercantile Bancorporation of St. Louis in 1995. When Mercantile struck a deal to sell to Firstar Corp. of Milwaukee, Lyon became one of the largest individual shareholders in Firstar with 14.2 million shares worth about $525 million at the time. US Bancorp of Minneapolis has succeeded Firstar.
He spent $4.2 million last year to set up a new address on an 80-acre spread in west Little Rock. The family 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. Frank Jr. owns the mother of Favorite Trick, 1997 Horse of Year, and the mother of Skip Away, 1997 Older Horse of Year.
The family is such a large benefactor of what was Arkansas College in Batesville that the school changed its name to Lyon College in 1995.
Next, McAdams, Garrison and Cooper.