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Acquisitions Alter List of 75 Largest Private Companies in ArkansasLock Icon

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Revenue at Arkansas Blue Cross & Blue Shield declined slightly in 2018 for the first time in at least 15 years.

But the Little Rock mutual health insurance company still took in $2.48 billion last year and remains atop the annual list of the state’s 75 largest private companies.

That assumes that our 2018 revenue estimate at Stephens Inc. — $2.25 billion — is a good one, and that’s an uncomfortably squishy assumption.

The Little Rock investment bank is undoubtedly one of the state’s largest private companies, but its revenue is a closely guarded secret.

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75 Largest Private Companies
Ranked by fiscal 2018 revenue of Arkansas-based, Arkansas-owned private companies.

The price of entry to the list declined to $100 million; last year’s No. 75 — Mid-South Sales Inc. of Jonesboro — checked in at $118.6 milion. The departures of five companies that were acquired in the past year made room at the bottom of the list for companies that had not made the cutoff last year — or ever. Mid-South, which rose to No. 68 after a 20.8% increase in revenue last year, is making its last appearance on the list because it, too, has been acquired.

The 75 companies on the list generated total revenue, self-reported and estimated, of $39.6 billion, an increase of less than 2% from last year’s list.

There was only one new company among the top 10: Bruce Oakley Inc. of North Little Rock.

The transportation company moved from No. 12 to No. 10 and returned to the billion-dollar revenue club for the first time since 2015.

Space opened at the top of the list because Everett Buick Pontiac GMC of Bryant sold three dealerships in northwest Arkansas to RML Automotive NWA in February 2018. Everett dropped from No. 8 to No. 19, while RML retained its place at No. 4 despite revenue growth of more than 10%.

The best showing among the 10 largest companies was by George’s Inc. The Springdale firm posted a 33.3% increase to $1.5 billion by including the full-year revenue of Ozark Mountain Poultry of Rogers, which it acquired in October. OMP had been No. 35 on last year’s list on the strength of $332 million in revenue in 2017.

Fellow poultry producer Simmons Foods Inc. of Siloam Springs, No. 5 on this year’s list, also enjoyed a strong year.

As Arkansas Business reported last week, it is building a $300 million processing plant near Decatur, where it expects to create 1,500 jobs.

It has already opened a new hiring center in Siloam Springs, and Director of Communications Donny Epps said more than 1,000 applicants have passed through.

The other companies that, like Ozark Mountain Poultry, left the list due to acquisition are:

► E-Z Mart of Texarkana, Texas, which was acquired in April 2018 by GPM Investments LLC of Richmond, Virginia. For years, this list recognized Texarkana companies on either side of the Arkansas-Texas border, but ended with the sale of E-Z Mart, which had been founded in Arkansas and was No. 15 on last year’s list.

► A. Tenenbaum Co. Inc., the North Little Rock metal re-cycler, which was sold in August to Alter Trading Corp. of St. Louis. It was No. 46 on last year’s list.

► JBE Inc. of Sherwood, fitness magnate Jim Bottin’s holding company, which sold its flagship subsidiary, ABC Financial, to Thoma Bravo of Chicago at the end of 2017. It was No. 55 last year.

► HealthScope Benefits of Little Rock, which declined to participate this year. Denise Crabb, executive assistant for the third-party benefits administrator, said HealthScope had ceased to be privately held as of March 8.

However, Crabb did not respond when asked who owns it now. No announcement of an acquisition had been made.

Filling the Void

Taking two of the vacant spots are companies that have been on the list in years past — Dyke Industries Inc. of Little Rock, No. 67, and CalArk International Inc. of Little Rock, No. 72.

The other spots were filled by Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperatives Corp. of Ozark, No. 70; Saline Memorial Hospital at Benton, No. 74; and Slim Chickens, the fast-growing fast-casual restaurant chain based in Fayetteville, No. 75.

Mid-South Sales was acquired in January by a conglomerate with an unwieldy name: Pugh Lubricants, Apollo Oil, Veteran’s Oil & Halco Lubricants.

Murray Benton Sr. continues to run the distributor of lubricants, fuel and related products.

No purchase price for the 57-year-old business was announced. Stephens Inc. served as its financial adviser.

How the List Is Compiled

Arkansas Business introduced its annual list of the state’s largest private companies in 1988 and continues that tradition this week.

The list originally sought to find the 50 largest companies that are owned and headquartered in Arkansas, but it was expanded to 75 companies in 1996. The list seeks to be comprehensive and authoritative, but the very privacy of the private companies means that it has never been either.

Practically every year we discover companies that should have been on the list in previous years. There are undoubtedly companies that belong on this list that we haven’t identified, and others consistently decline to share their top-line revenue figure, 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, more than 60 either volunteered revenue data or reported it publicly. The rest are estimates and are footnoted as such.

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 GMoritz@ABPG.com.

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