Lindsey Co. Faces Changing Market as Golf Course Demand Drops

As much as it pains him, Lyndy Lindsey sometimes looks for possible apartment complex sites that won’t have an adjoining golf course.

Lindsey is the president of Lindsey Management, the apartment management subsidiary of The Lindsey Co. of Fayetteville, a perennial entry on the Arkansas Business list of the state’s largest private companies. He said Lindsey Management will soon have two trail-oriented apartment complexes, one in Oklahoma City that will soon be completed and another in Bentonville that should be finished in the next year.

Lindsey properties are well-known for their golf course amenity — and Lyndy Lindsey happily pursued one of his true loves by designing the courses.

More: See the list of Arkansas' 75 Largest Private Companies.

But golf courses are not nearly as popular as they were 10 to 20 years ago, Lindsey said, and Lindsey Management is smart enough to adapt. There are approximately 42 Lindsey golf courses, most affiliated with an apartment complex, but there are some standalone courses.

“We probably do as good a job as anybody in the country trying to make those golf courses work,” Lindsey said. “Last year, there were more golf courses close up in the country than any prior year. The last couple years they’ve just been closing the doors because people can’t make them work.

“We struggle with them, there’s no doubt, but they’re a part of our amenity package for our apartments. We have to keep them going.”

The management company’s ability to adapt and thrive is a Lindsey trademark. Lindsey Management is one of the business linchpins of the Lindsey brand started by former Arkansas football star Jim Lindsey in 1972.

In addition to the apartment management company, there is the real estate agency Lindsey & Associates and the construction company, Lindsey Construction. The cooperation among the three Lindsey companies allows each to operate much more efficiently.

Neither Lyndy Lindsey, son of Jim, nor Scott Rogerson, CFO of Lindsey Management, would share revenue figures for any or all of the Lindsey companies. Arkansas Business has estimated revenue companywide at $350 million in both 2012 and 2013; the company reported $335.5 million in 2011.

Lindsey & Associates is headed by Lyndy’s brother, John David Lindsey. It earned commissions last year on residential real estate sales volume of $473.5 million, making it the No. 3 agency in the state in 2013.

The interlocking companies help each Lindsey entity lower costs. Lindsey Construction builds Lindsey Management properties at a much more affordable price than a third-party company could.

“The way Dad invented and created the whole thing, with having a construction company that could build the project at wholesale without trying to mark up anything, and then to be able to manage it — we’re getting it as cheap as we can get it,” Lindsey said. “We’re getting the wholesale cost. If someone else took our plan and went and built it, they ain’t going to build it for what we’re going to build it.”

Lindsey said 2013 was a good year for the management company. Lindsey Management oversees apartments in eight states that total about 37,000 units. That number is growing, even if some of the apartment sites are shrinking in size.

“It comes down to the best use of the property,” Rogerson said.

A Lindsey complex with a golf course is usually between 80 and 100 acres, Lyndy Lindsey said, while trail-oriented apartments might take up only 30 acres of space. The Trails at Rockwell, a soon-to-be-completed complex in Oklahoma City, has a half-mile trail around the apartment buildings, and there are also all the other amenities such as swimming pools and tennis courts.

“We are looking at smaller sites,” Lindsey said. “We encompass the buildings around those so it feels like a resort with that walking trail around the outside. We still have some golf properties that we’re still looking at doing, but the tough thing about golf is people are so busy it’s hard to find time to go play.

“We started small and then got into big parcels and big pieces, and now we’re coming back to small tracts and building them out. There was a point in time where the golf course greased the skids. I don’t think the golf course has quite the appeal now.”

Design is in Lindsey’s blood, though.

“It’s funny because when we were over doing the one at Rockwell, I was telling the guy cutting the path, ‘Don’t make a straight line. Give that thing some curve,’” Lindsey said. “I love doing the golf courses, but they are an enormous amount of work. You’re trying to take 80 to 100 acres of land and you’re trying to make it pristine like your front yard. That ain’t easy to do.”

Rogerson said the addition of trail-associated complexes to the Lindsey portfolio is just part of doing business. The company will still look for good sites for development, whether they add golf courses or trails or something else.

“There are always obstacles out there,” Rogerson said. “We’ll always identify good locations to go build apartments in for LM to manage. I don’t really think we market them differently.”

Jim Lindsey started it all when he used his NFL signing bonus to buy the land that would eventually become the site of the Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville. That led to the next real estate investment and then the next and so on.

The first Lindsey apartments had 44 units. The Trails at Rockwell will have 468, and the Bentonville apartments will have a similar number of units.

Jim Lindsey, 69, is less of a presence at the companies that bear his name, but Lyndy Lindsey said his father is still active and involved with the companies’ activities.

“He has never talked about retirement,” Lindsey said. “He has never talked about going anywhere. The bottom line is whatever happens down the road, we’re going to keep his dream going.”

Regardless of how involved he is, Jim Lindsey’s imprint is all over the Lindsey brands, said his son. Rogerson said Jim Lindsey’s fairness coupled with a demanding nature resulted in the success the Lindsey firms have seen.

“We have a bunch of great people who work here in this office and in this company,” Lindsey said. “We can’t do it without them. So many people are involved in this whole thing that it is really more to me about all the people who work in this building.

“Dad is fair — you work your butt off, you get rewarded. That is how he has always been. That is the foundation.”

Rogerson, who has been with Lindsey Management for almost 20 years, said the whole Lindsey atmosphere is a family one. Lyndy Lindsey said that is one of the reasons behind the drive to keep the companies successful.

“We have construction superintendents who build these complexes because they’ve been working on them for years,” Lindsey said. “They have families to feed and we want to keep them busy. We’re out there trying to chase down the next project to keep these people busy. What’s the alternative? You’d have to let go a bunch of people that you love.”

The market is the determining factor. Lindsey said when the management company puts in a new complex in a community, the market will tell them if they’re right, as they have been so many times.

“We pride ourselves in being 100 percent full,” Lindsey said. “It’s hard to get 100 percent full. The market is going to tell you. You can sit there and try every tactic known to man and it’s going to tell you if that particular market needs more units or not.”

Lindsey said the success of the Lindsey family brands cannot be credited to one person, certainly not himself, as he repeatedly stressed.

“We have great people working for us, and we’ve been blessed,” Lindsey said. “It’s going to keep going, and we’re going to work each day. In the morning we are going to put our feet on the floor and tackle the problems we encounter. We are just going to keep on keeping on.”