The former chief operating officer for Crain Automotive Holdings LLC of Sherwood said he’s due about $5 million after resigning from the company in January.
Barton Hankins of Little Rock said in his lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Little Rock, that by being employed with Crain Automotive he was a participant in a deferred compensation plan. And according to the plan, if Hankins left Crain Automotive, his deferred compensation would be equal to 5% of the fair market value of the company, the lawsuit said.
Hankins started working for the company in 2019, his LinkedIn profile said. “I oversee the operations and performance of 22 dealerships, a stand-alone collision center and a used car super center,” the profile said. He also was the COO of Crain Media Group LLC, a subsidiary of Crain.
The Crain Management Group is one of Arkansas’ largest private companies. It was ranked No. 21 on Arkansas Business’ list of the largest private companies with an estimated $800 million in revenue in 2022.
On Jan. 17, Hankins quit.
The lawsuit said that the vested portion of Hankins’ deferred compensation amount was $4.977 million and the deadline to pay was April 1.
But Crain Automotive didn’t pay. Crain Automotive argued that for the plan to be enforced, it required Hankins to have signed an employment agreement or confidentiality, noncompete and nonsolicitation agreement, according to the lawsuit.
But both Crain Automotive and Hankins knew that he had not signed such a document, Hankins’ lawsuit said.
Hankins said that the nonexistence of the employment agreement doesn’t mean the deferred compensation plan is invalid.
Hankins is seeking a declaratory judgment that he is entitled to his nearly $5 million. He is represented by attorneys Michael Thompson and Collins Hickman of Wright Lindsey Jennings of Little Rock.
Crain Automotive’s attorney Skip Davidson of Little Rock said in an email to Whispers that the dispute over executive compensation started before Larry Crain Sr. died in April at the age of 81. Crain was the president of Crain Management Group
“Larry Crain Sr. disputed this claim and the successor management by Larry Crain Jr. continues to dispute the claim by Mr. Hankins,” Davidson said.