by David Smith
Posted 7/11/1994 12:00 am
Updated 2 years ago
With its acquisition of Donrey Media Group last August, Stephens Group Inc. of Little Rock became Arkansas' third-largest private company.
Including Donrey's 1993 totals, Stephens Group had $550 million in revenues last year, based on figures from the Dun & Bradstreet Information Services Inc. publication, "Million Dollar Directory," which lists the leading public and private companies in the country.
Donrey, based in Fort Smith and Las Vegas, owns newspapers, outdoor advertising, broadcasting stations and cable television services throughout the country. Its largest newspaper is in Las Vegas. It owns six daily newspapers in Arkansas, including the Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, the Pine Bluff Commercial, The Morning News in Springdale and the Northwest Arkansas Morning News in Rogers.
Stephens Group is involved in investment banking, crude petroleum and natural gas production, and furniture and office machine rental. Its subsidiaries include Stephens Production and Stephens Inc., one of the largest investment firms off Wall Street.
Riceland Foods Inc. of Stuttgart remains the largest private company in the state in Arkansas Business' annual ranking. The cooperative had $692 million in revenues last year, company executives say.
Second on the list is O.K. Industries of Fort Smith, a poultry processing company, with $554.8 million in revenues.
There are six new companies on this year's list:
• Petit Jean Poultry Inc. in Danville, No. 30 with $124.8 million in revenues;
• Forrest City Grocery Co., No. 34 with $100 million in revenues.
• H&H Marketing Inc., a 3-year-old food brokerage firm in Bentonville, tied at No. 34 with $100 million in revenues;
• Landers Auto Sales Inc., No. 44 with $88 million in sales;
• Bale Chevrolet Co. of Little Rock, No. 47 with $87 million in revenues;
• Carco Transportation Systems Inc. of Fort Smith, which owns the trucking firm of CCC Express Inc. and Arkansas' Hertz Rent-A-Car franchise, No. 48 with $84.9 million in revenues.
Deregulation Helped Carco
Carco is also the Navistar and John Deere dealer in Fort Smith, says company Chairman Carl D. Corley Sr.
Corley's father and a partner became International Harvester (now Navistar) dealers in Fort Smith in 1931. Corley started Carco Transportation in 1962.
"When deregulated trucking came along in 1980, we were strictly in the truck rental and leasing business," Corley says. "But deregulation even changed truck rental and leasing companies.
"At that time, we were just a small company in Arkansas and Oklahoma, and we competed with [truck rental] companies like Ryder and Hertz-Penske. Deregulation really opened up the market. It had held up prices, but then all the prices went higher."
Three years after deregulation, Corley started CCC Express. That division of Carco did $63 million in revenues last year.
"We can lease a company trucks, rent trucks to them or we can take over their fleet on a dedicated basis," he says. "Dedicated means a company may have their signs on the truck, but you do everything for them — hire the drivers, pay for the fuel, lease the trucks to them."
Bernie Kramer is president of CCC Express. Brent Roberson is president of Carco Rentals. Carl D. Corley Jr. is president of the Hertz division.
Carco has the Hertz franchise in Fort Smith, the Fayetteville-Springdale area, Jonesboro, Hot Springs, Texarkana and Little Rock, Corley says.
William Cohn heads Forrest City Grocery, a wholesale grocery and general line distributor, which supplies about 900 retail grocery stores and convenience stores in Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Missouri.
"We work about a 150- or 200-mile radius [of Forrest City]," says Cohn. "We try to stay aggressive and we have good, qualified personnel that work with us."
Cohn's son David is general manager of the 51-year-old company and son Allen is assistant manager.
10,800 Sales a Year
Landers sells about 900 new and used cars a month at its two lots in Benton, Bob Landers says.
"We sell what we call a six-pack: Jeep, Eagle, Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth and GMC trucks," says Landers, secretary-treasurer of the company. Steve Landers is president and John Landers is vice president. Bob Landers says the three rotate titles at the company.
Bob Landers started the business in 1973 after 12 years in auto sales with Thomas Auto Co. and Spivey Chevrolet, both in Benton. The company only sold used cars, he says, until 1989 when it acquired the Jeep-Eagle franchise and the Chrysler franchise.
The auto dealership has succeeded, Landers says, because "we've been fair with our customers."
"We try to keep up with what's happening with our customers," Landers says. "We require our salesmen to mail birthday cards and Christmas cards to them."
Landers says 75 percent of the company's business is from people outside Saline County. The firm advertises statewide on television and in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The six companies that dropped off the list this year are: Crossparex International of Alicia (Lawrence County), Donrey, Hill Wheatley Enterprises Inc. of Hot Springs, National Home Centers Inc. of Springdale, Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. of Little Rock and Progressive Constructors Inc. of Little Rock.
Neither Arkansas Business nor Dun & Bradstreet could verify Crossparex's revenues as supplied by its owner, Ronald Whitlow. Dun & Bradstreet no longer lists Crossparex in its publications.
Kenneth Wheatley III says Hill Wheatley Enterprises had revenues of only $4 million last year in its hotel, real estate, retail and rental businesses. Based on information from the company, Arkansas Business last year reported Hill Wheatley's revenues as $215 million.
"This figure has been grossly exaggerated for years," Kenneth Wheatley says. "Hill Wheatley died this past year and after estate settlement and taxes, [revenues] will fall to $4 million."
National Home Centers became a public company last year. Farm Bureau had revenues of $72 million in 1993, not enough to qualify this year. Progressive Constructors' revenues fell to $55.5 million last year.
Next in Line
Some other companies that missed making the Top 50 this year, most with estimated revenues from the "Million Dollar Directory," include:
• Washington Regional Medical Systems Inc. of Fayetteville, $70.5 million;
• H.C. Schmeiding Produce Co. of Springdale, a dealer of agricultural products, $62 million;
• First Electric Cooperative Corp. of Jacksonville, $61.5 million;
• Cheyenne Industries Inc. of Little Rock, which manufactures floor and table lamps, $60 million;
• Hytrol Conveyor Co. of Jonesboro, $58 million;
• E.C. Barton & Co. of Jonesboro, which owns retail and wholesale building material stores in five states, $57.4 million;
• Adams Land Co. of Leachville, $50 million;
• American Industries Inc. of Conway, which makes kitchen and bath cabinets, with $50 million in revenues;
• Carlstrom Foods Inc. of Harrison, $50 million.