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John Glasgow to Dillard’s: ‘Call Off the Dogs’

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A version of this article originally appeared in Arkansas Business on March 3, 2008. It is being republished as part of Arkansas Business’ 30th anniversary issue. You can access the digital edition for free here.

The relationship between the management of CDI Contractors LLC of Little Rock and half-owner Dillard’s Inc. was under tremendous stress in the days before CDI’s chief financial officer disappeared on Jan. 28.

On Friday, Jan. 18, Melinda Glasgow saw her husband, John, in tears for only the second time in 16 years, after a particularly difficult meeting with Dillard’s executives; the first was when his mother died. “He told me, ‘Today has been the worst day of my life.’”

A week later, on Jan. 25, John Glasgow completed a draft of a letter to Dillard’s CEO William Dillard II on behalf of William Clark, CEO of CDI since the death in May of his father, company founder Bill Clark. It referred to a meeting that had included Clark, Glasgow, William Dillard and Dillard’s CFO James Freeman.

“For Freeman to come down here and say we are dishonest, and for you [Dillard] to sit there and not say anything, hurt us to the core. We have never been so offended in our lives,” Glasgow wrote for Clark.

It continued: “Now I’m concerned that our foundation is on shaky ground. I want to keep this partnership together and continue building on my dad’s legacy, and I believe that is what he would want me to do. Will you please let me do that? If we can move forward, then I have a plan for how to do it. First, you have to call off the dogs.”

Whether Clark sent the letter to Dillard is not known. Dillard’s and CDI, in a joint response issued in February to questions submitted by Arkansas Business, said: “Neither Dillard’s nor CDI believe any money was misappropriated by John Glasgow or any other member of CDI’s management.”

The response was the first statement from Dillard’s or any of its management team regarding Glasgow since his disappearance.

Glasgow’s draft letter, provided to Arkansas Business by Melinda Glasgow, reveals John Glasgow’s mindset three days before he vanished.

“Freeman’s accountants have been down here for the past two weeks looking through everything we have, and that’s fine because we have nothing to hide and never have,” he wrote.

A forensic audit, ordered by CDI and conducted by a Kansas City company, of John Glasgow’s company-issued laptop computer, the desktop computer in his office and the company’s books came up clean, Melinda Glasgow said.

‘All the Odd Stuff’

More than 700 people were missing in Arkansas on the last day of January, and that’s typical of any given day. But the disappearance of John Glasgow is anything but typical.

“What makes it odd? All the odd stuff,” said George Stowe-Rains, a search and rescue specialist with the Arkansas Forestry Commission who helped lead the search for Glasgow on Petit Jean Mountain in late January.

Glasgow — white, male and 45 — was already part of a small minority of missing persons. He was the only one who was chief financial officer of one of the state’s largest private companies. And it’s safe to assume he’s the only one who had banked a $300,000 annual bonus days before he vanished.

“There’s just so much bizarreness that went against his character, or what the family described as his character,” said Stowe-Rains, a Benton County ranger and a 20-year veteran of search-and-rescue operations. “Not finding any good sign of him, the dogs not hitting any kind of trail, was just bizarre.”

John’s oldest brother, Little Rock lawyer Roger Glasgow, agrees:

“Every scenario you can imagine has a great big hole in it that you just can’t bridge. It seems to me he had every reason to stay and no reason to run away.”

‘Stand-up’ Guy

John Glasgow had been CFO of CDI Contractors for 12 years and “a trusted member of the CDI family for more than 17 years,” according to a statement issued by William Clark on Jan. 31.

“John is very stand-up, a good neighbor and a good friend,” said Brian Rosenthal, Glasgow’s next-door neighbor for more than 12 years.

Rosenthal saw, or thought he did, John’s familiar Volvo SUV leaving the house he shared with Melinda at 5:15 a.m. Jan. 28, a Monday. By 4:30 that afternoon, a tourist’s photo proves, it was parked — unlocked with his laptop computer, company-issued cellphone and credit card and a personal debit card inside — in the parking lot in front of Mather Lodge in Petit Jean State Park.

Speculation about Glasgow’s whereabouts has become almost a parlor game, but as for solid clues, that’s it. Thousands of man-hours spent searching the state park and canvassing businesses in the area turned up nothing. Absolutely nothing.

“The only thing putting him on that mountain was his car. We have a picture so we know it was there,” Stowe-Rains said. But “you know, your car can be someplace and you can be someplace completely different.”

No usable fingerprints were recovered from the Volvo; Glasgow’s cell phone made no calls on the day he disappeared; his bank account and MasterCard haven’t been used; his passport was in his safe at home.

A $70,000 reward for information leading to his location hasn’t even scared up the crazies and posers the family expected, Roger Glasgow said.

The family is convinced that John is alive, but possibly not well, and they doubt he was ever on Petit Jean. If he was, it was only to get out of his car and into another one.

“We have a better marriage than anyone I know, better than relatives or friends,” Melinda Glasgow said last week. “That’s why I think he’s still alive. I think I would feel it if he wasn’t. … There is no doubt in my mind that he loves me more than anything. I don’t think he would do this ‘just because.’ There’s a reason.”

What that reason is, she doesn’t know. But for him to put his large, close-knit family through the hell of not knowing where he is has led her to a single conclusion:

“I have to feel like if this was a choice, that it was better than the alternative. So I shudder to think what the alternative might have been.”


John Glasgow, the youngest of eight children, was born and educated in Nashville (Howard County), but grew up on a farm about five miles away.

Among Glasgow’s classmates in the Nashville High School class of 1980 was Melinda Hayes, but they didn’t date then and each would have a failed marriage before they rediscovered each other in Little Rock. Their first date was to Roger Glasgow’s 50th birthday party in January 1992, and they married that summer.

In the meantime, John earned a business degree from the University of Central Arkansas at Conway in 1985 and began an accounting career with the firm now known as BKD LLP. Glasgow earned an MBA from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and was licensed as a CPA.

As an outside auditor, Glasgow was assigned to a new construction company formed in 1987 as a 50-50 partnership between Bill Clark and Dillard’s Inc., primarily to build stores for the Little Rock retailer.

Clark hired John away from BKD in 1990. He would be named controller in 1992, the same year he married Melinda and began raising her 12-year-old son, Jeffrey Thomas Franklin.

Late in 1995, John would be named CFO of CDI after he helped uncover a seven-figure embezzlement by the previous CFO, Kevin Wheeler.

Ownership Change

CDI’s annual revenue was $243 million in 1995, when Glasgow became CFO. It would reach a record of $580 million in 2007, despite its founder’s death. Bill Clark’s half-interest in CDI passed to his widow, Margaret; his son, William Clark, was elevated to CEO.

Glasgow was very well compensated, but his brother said the $300,000 bonus he received in January was unusually large. The money, like his regular paychecks, was direct-deposited into a joint checking account he shared with Melinda, Roger Glasgow said.

A plan to disburse Clark’s share of the company was in the works; in fact, Arkansas Business published a Whispers item about it in the issue dated Jan. 28, the day Glasgow went missing.

In their joint response, Dillard’s and CDI said an agreement dating from the inception of the construction firm “gives Dillard’s the right to purchase Bill Clark’s interest from his estate following his death. However, Dillard’s and some of the officers and employees of CDI are discussing an arrangement whereby Dillard’s would permit these individuals to purchase Bill Clark’s interest from the estate and, thus, continue in the partnership with Dillard’s.”

The plan that was emerging, according to Roger Glasgow, called for William Clark to receive roughly half of the Clark shares while John Glasgow and a number of other CDI employees would each buy much smaller shares.

John was deeply involved in CDI’s routine year-end audit as well as the valuation of the company, according to his brother, and he represented his fellow executives in talks with Simmons First National Bank for loans to buy shares from the Clark estate.

John fully intended to spend the rest of his working life with CDI, but on “the worst day of his life,” they took comfort in the knowledge that they would be fine even if his job there ended.

“He was committed to that company, but he knew on an intellectual level that he didn’t have to be,” Melinda Glasgow said.

Dillard’s and CDI, in their joint response, said it was “simply not true” that Glasgow’s position as CFO was threatened by the change in ownership.

Last Known Movements

John Glasgow worked a lot on the weekend before he disappeared. He used an electronic key to enter and leave the CDI office several times on Saturday and again on Sunday, but no surveillance camera was trained on the employee entrance he used.

That evening, he and Melinda went across the street for a dinner party hosted by John’s older cousin, Dick Norton. When he got back home, John fell asleep in front of the television with his favorite cat on a blanket on his lap.

Melinda went to bed upstairs and hasn’t seen him since.

Brian Rosenthal, an attorney with the Rose Law Firm, set multiple alarm clocks so that he would wake up early on Monday, Jan. 28. While he was making sure that he had turned off all the alarms, Rosenthal heard a car outside.

“I thought that was pretty unusual,” he said, but then again, “I’m not up that early all that often, so I couldn’t say for sure.” It was maybe as late as 5:15 a.m.

When he looked out, he saw John Glasgow driving east on South Lookout toward Point Circle, the way he generally headed for work.

At least he assumed it was John. When the family started looking for John later that day, Rosenthal realized that he hadn’t actually seen the driver and he hadn’t studied the car carefully enough to say without a doubt that it was Glasgow’s.

“I saw the car leaving from in front of John’s house. … I assumed it was John, yes. When someone asked me later if I had seen John, my answer would have been, yes, I saw him drive off.”

An electronic “ping” from John’s cellphone was recorded on an Alltel tower in Little Rock at 5:15 that morning, Roger Glasgow said, so the family doesn’t doubt that Rosenthal saw John leaving home. But he never entered the CDI offices that day, and his car hasn’t been spotted on surveillance videos along the route to the office.

When Melinda got up, her husband and the Volvo were gone. Since his bathroom was downstairs and he took care of his own wardrobe, she wasn’t surprised that he could have gotten ready for work and left without waking her.

She went to her own job in the PR department at Heifer International’s headquarters in downtown Little Rock.

Missing Person

About 2:30 that afternoon, Christy Clark, whom John Glasgow had hired as an accountant at CDI and who later married William Clark, called Melinda to ask where John was.

“I knew that if he wasn’t at work, something was wrong. That’s just not John. He’s the most responsible person I have known in my entire life,” Melinda said.

Christy Clark dispatched a search party to Glasgow’s house, but no one was home. Melinda called her brother-in-law Roger and John’s best friend, PR executive Mitch Chandler, and asked them to meet her at the house.

After the three called in vain anyone who might know where he went, Chandler called the Little Rock Police Department. The responding officer was persuaded to make a missing person report at 5:54 p.m. even though John had been missing for only 12 hours.

The police report sounded ominous: “J. Glasgow had recently been stressed over events occurring at work but he never made any statements about harming himself. … M. Glasgow advised that J. Glasgow wrote a bank account number and the code to their personal safe on a pad of paper and left it on the table along with some checks to be mailed. M. Glasgow also advised that a 22 rifle was missing from the residence.”

The last part irritates Melinda. It was Chandler, she said, who told the police about the only firearm John owned, a single-shot antique that was later found in an armoire in the Glasgow home.

“It was ridiculous of Mitch to even mention it,” Melinda said. “It was never a concern for me.”

The significance of the account number and safe code is unclear. The account number wasn’t secret — it was printed on their checks. The safe combination was kept elsewhere in the house.

“There wasn’t one single thing that alarmed me at all. Nothing,” Melinda said, not even with the benefit of hindsight. “I’ve retraced it a hundred times — well, should I have looked here or noticed that? — and nothing.”

“Really, I guess we kind of hyped the significance of those items to expedite the missing-persons report,” Roger said. “Except for the rifle. That did concern me.”

The Only Clue

Because CDI owned the Alltel cellphone John Glasgow carried, William Clark called Alltel’s CEO, Scott Ford, and asked him to expedite a trace. By Tuesday investigators knew that the phone had bounced a ping off a cell tower near Petit Jean on Monday, and that information quickly led to the discovery early Tuesday afternoon of Glasgow’s Volvo.

That news persuaded Melinda that John would be located in short order. Her worst fear was that he was injured. But the official multi-agency search was finally called off after five days.

George Stowe-Rains of the Arkansas Forestry Commission arrived at Petit Jean on Wednesday night to act as “incident commander.” He brought in a dog and handler with whom he has had success in the past, to no avail. He doesn’t think John Glasgow was there to be found.

“If he was on that mountain, we’d have found him. I feel relatively certain that we would have,” he said.

The Glasgow family paid to bring in trained dogs and handlers from Maine and Virginia, and their failure to find any sign at all persuaded the family to abandon the search on Petit Jean.

Weeks later, Stowe-Rains said the Glasgow case still had him “befuzzled.”

“There’s something fishy,” he said, but he’s no conspiracy theorist. In fact, he said, 80-plus searches over 20 years have taught him that “the more conspiratorial you get, the farther you get from what actually happened.”

“Either [Glasgow] accomplished his plan to disappear or something went completely wrong on him clearing his head and he’s up on the mountain. But I just don’t think that,” he said.

Stowe-Rains dismissed the idea that Glasgow might have used an uncontrolled private airstrip on Petit Jean “because if he was going to fly out of there, he would have parked closer to the strip.”

No evidence suggests that anyone beside John Glasgow drove his car to Mather Lodge, Stowe-Rains said. “And that’s another thing — if you are wanting to dump a car, why would you dump the car in the fricking parking lot?”

Nor is there any reason to think Glasgow was suicidal, he said. Neither Melinda Glasgow nor her brother-in-law Roger entertain the idea that John could have killed himself.

“No. Absolutely not. I know that without a doubt. No,” Melinda said.

And there are several more theories she dismisses out of hand.

“There is zero doubt in my mind that there’s another woman. There is zero doubt in my mind that there was any money thing. … Our house is paid for; our cars are paid for; we have zero debt. We don’t have money problems, and would he take money that wasn’t his? Absolutely not.”

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