The former editor of Arkansas Business who decided to include businesses on either side of Texarkana on the list of Arkansas’ largest private companies probably never considered the problems that would cause when one on the Texas side took the top spot.
Truman Arnold Cos. worked its way up to No. 1 for the first time in 2001 and held that position most years since then. But this year, TAC has been dropped completely at the company’s request since the senior management and sales and marketing functions have been moved from Texarkana to Dallas.
Another company headquartered on the Texas side of Texarkana remains on the list: No. 8 E-Z Mart Inc., which was founded in Arkansas — in Nashville, in Howard County, to be precise — in 1970.
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The loss of TAC plays havoc with year-to-year revenue comparisons for the top 75 companies: While most of the companies on the list reported increased revenue — some very large increases — losing Truman Arnold Co.’s $3 billion means the total of all 75 companies slipped from almost $32 billion to barely $30 billion. And the void left by TAC and a couple of other notable companies dropped the cutoff for making the list from $80 million in 2011 revenue to $76 million in 2012.
The departure of TAC leaves the No. 1 spot on the list to Stephens Inc. of Little Rock. We’ve continued to estimate the famously secretive investment firm’s annual revenue at $1.835 billion, the most recent estimate by The Gale Group, although it’s probably the most questionable number on the entire list.
And it is only an eyelash ahead of the second-place company, Mountaire Corp. of Little Rock, which reported $1.824 billion in revenue in the fiscal year that ended on Oct. 31. That’s an increase of more than 30 percent from fiscal 2011 for the integrated producer of poultry products, which has most of its operations in Delaware and North Carolina. Of 6,000 employees of the company owned and led by Ronald M. Cameron, only 37 are in Arkansas.
Mountaire was one of eight companies that voluntarily reported revenue of more than $1 billion — including commodities transporter Bruce Oakley Inc. of North Little Rock, which moved from No. 13 to No. 9 with a stunning increase of 48 percent in revenue for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 25.
(To see the largest private companies in Arkansas through the years, click here.)
Besides Truman Arnold Cos., four other companies that were on last year’s list are missing this year. They are:
• Stephen LaFrance Pharmacy Inc., the parent company of USA Drug, which was sold in September 2012 to publicly traded Walgreen Co. of Deerfield, Ill., for $438 million. Although Drug Chain News has estimated the LaFrance company’s revenue at $1.08 billion, an estimate used by Arkansas Business for the private companies list last year, Walgreen revealed that its actual revenue was about $825 million, which moved it to No. 11 when the list was revised.
• Crackerbox Food Stores of Hot Springs, which sold its chain of 32 convenience stores to Valero Retail Holdings of San Antonio last May. No price tag for the transaction was announced, but deed transfers filed in Pulaski County suggest that the real estate alone could have been worth some $50 million.
• Schmeiding Enterprises Inc. of Springdale, which was removed from the list because earlier estimates of annual revenue topping $100 million could not be independently verified.
• Latco Inc. of Lincoln, the builder of poultry houses and commercial trusses, which went out of business in February after selling off some assets. Chairman and CEO James Latta could not be reached for comment, and additional details were not available. Neither Latta nor Latco has filed for bankruptcy protection.
Three of the companies that absorbed the five empty spots on the list should have been there in the past:
• Salmon Cos. of North Little Rock, a U.S. Postal Service contract mail carrier, entered the list at No. 39 with revenue of $228 million in the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. That's an increase of almost 67 percent from fiscal 2011, when the company — then known as Pat Salmon & Sons — had revenue from the postal service of $136.7 million. The huge increase is attributable to the acquisition in 2012 of Mail Contractors of America Inc. of Little Rock, which had revenue from the Postal Service of $116.7 million in fiscal 2011, according to a report compiled by Husch Blackwell LLP of Washington, D.C.
Pat Salmon & Sons should have joined Arkansas Business’ private companies list two years ago, after other acquisitions pushed its revenue from $34.4 million in fiscal 2009 to $142.9 million in fiscal 2010, according to Husch Blackwell’s research. In fiscal 2012, Salmon Cos. was the No. 3 vendor to the U.S. Postal Service.
• Hugg & Hall Equipment of Little Rock entered the list at No. 59 with 2012 revenue of $125 million. The distributor of construction and industrial equipment also reported revenue of $109 million in 2011, which means it should have been on the list last year.
• Packaging Specialties Inc. of Fayetteville responded to the Arkansas Business survey this year, reporting $113 million in revenue for 2012 (No. 62) and $102 million for 2011, which would also have placed it on last year’s list. Packaging Specialties produces “flexographic” printing on the type of materials used to wrap fresh meats and other foods.
The other two additions this year are No. 66 Clark Contractors LLC of Little Rock and HealthScope Benefits of Little Rock, returning to the list at No. 75 after missing the cutoff last year.
About the List
For the 26th consecutive year, Arkansas Business presents a list of the state’s largest privately owned companies.
In the early years, the list only sought to find the 50 largest. In 1996, it was expanded to 75 companies. It seeks to be comprehensive and authoritative, but the very privacy of private companies assures that it has never been either. There are undoubtedly companies that belong on this list that are flying beneath the radar, and others have long declined to share even their top-line revenue figures, which is the number used to rank the list.
More than 120 companies were surveyed for this year’s list. Of the 75 that made the final cut, 60 volunteered revenue data. The rest are estimates, often from other companies and publications that undertake similar research projects.
If you know of a company that should be on the list — or comes close and should be surveyed for future lists — please contact Editor Gwen Moritz at (501) 372-1443 or GMoritz@ABPG.com.