by Chris Bahn
Posted 8/26/2013 12:00 am
Updated 3 months ago
Note: A correction has been made to this article. See end for details.
Jim Lindsey has always had a knack for doing math in his head. It’s a skill that has served him well over the years in real estate development, and his ability to multiply three-digit numbers in his head was a good source of entertainment on family trips.
Occasionally, he’ll encounter numbers that give him pause.
That was the case in 1982 when he was considering entering the multifamily residential game. Interest rates were about 14 percent and building was costly, but when he ran the numbers in his head, Lindsey figured that breaking even within a year was a very real possibility.
Lindsey put it down on paper just to be certain.
“I thought it would be good,” Lindsey said. “I saw the figures on it and I knew the math was totally in our favor. It’s worked out really good.
“I didn’t know it would be this good.”
Lindsey’s building of the Chestnut Apartments just a couple miles from the University of Arkansas campus accelerated the growth of his real estate dealings in northwest Arkansas and launched a business that has grown into the building and management of 37,000 units in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska and Tennessee. In addition to Lindsey Management, there’s also Lindsey & Associates Inc. and Lindsey Construction Co.
Lindsey’s success story is chronicled in a 34-minute Clint Fullen documentary narrated by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones that will premiere Thursday at the UARK Bowl in Fayetteville. Fullen began “The Jim Lindsey Story” as a master’s thesis at the University of Arkansas, and AETN is expected to broadcast it later this year.
The film often centers on Lindsey’s first real estate investment. Lindsey certainly has fond memories of purchasing those 137 acres that would eventually become the Northwest Arkansas Mall.
He bought the land with a $75,000 signing bonus from the Minnesota Vikings and flipped that investment into money that helped him invest in various residential and commercial projects around the area.
But it’s those first apartments he built and how the business has grown from there that Lindsey most enjoys discussing. Perhaps the only topic that seems to excite Lindsey more than those first apartments he built is his appreciation for the UA, where he played football for the 1964 national championship team, earned a degree in math and served on the board of trustees.
“The best thing I ever did [in business] was when I built 44 units of apartments on Poplar Street,” Lindsey said. “It’s turned out well.”
Fullen’s film focuses on the on-field and eventual real estate success that grew from Lindsey’s relatively humble beginnings on a farm in Forrest City. Lindsey still owns land there and has farming interests in addition to his various real estate-related operations.
Lindsey’s road to success, as with anybody of his stature, isn’t without a few bumps.
One of the biggest, and most recent, was his son John David’s high-profile bankruptcy filing in 2010. And while the failed developments didn’t happen under the Lindsey umbrella, the bankruptcy was highly publicized and still had an impact on public perception.
“He was tremendous. Tremendous,” John David Lindsey said of his father. “But it wasn’t his problem. Because I was his son, it got attention for him, but legally it wasn’t his problem. He was terrific. It was tough, but he was great about it.”
Former tenants of the Fountain Lakes apartment complex in Benton filed a civil lawsuit in November alleging that Lindsey Management showed model apartments that were in much better condition than actual units that were leased. That suit has been moved from Saline County Circuit Court to U.S. District Court, where plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages.
While the family didn’t talk in specifics about the suit or a stalled deal to buy Longhills golf course in Benton, son Lyndy Lindsey did speak in general about the high-profile trials that have come along with the success. While they haven’t involved Lindsey directly, they have impacted the company that bears his name.
“You just get through it,” Lyndy Lindsey said. “You put your feet on the floor the next morning. There’s always going to be something and you just keep plugging along. That’s a lesson he’s lived throughout his life.”
While the upcoming documentary details Lindsey’s life and success up to his point, his sons think the story isn’t quite over for their father. Jim Lindsey said he hasn’t seriously thought about retiring and still gets energized by work.
Both John David and Lindsey said they think it is doubtful that he will retire anytime soon. It’s a topic they said they don’t discuss, and most days Jim Lindsey can be found on the couch in his sixth-floor office of the corporate headquarters on Joyce Street in Fayetteville — he has no desk — looking over documents pertaining to various ongoing and upcoming projects.
Lindsey remains involved in discussions about the future of the companies under the Lindsey name. Lyndy Lindsey, who said he is becoming increasingly involved in day-to-day operations of Lindsey Management in addition to designing the golf courses that accompany some of the apartment projects the company builds, said his father still has a goal of one day stretching that number of units from 37,000 to 50,000.
“The management company has a great staff and great executive leadership, the apartment business is really good, and the real estate company is coming back,” Lyndy Lindsey said. “He’s put in a lot of principles that will help this place succeed for a long time.”
(Correction, Aug. 26: The date of the documentary film premiere was incorrect in the original article and has been corrected. The film will premier Thursday, Aug. 29.)