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Lazenbys Face Loss Of Homes, Business

4 min read

Centennial Bank of Conway is restarting its $2.6 million foreclosure action against Little Rock real estate investor Ron Lazenby.

The lawsuit against Lazenby, his wife, Toni, and the Ronald Lazenby Revocable Trust was put on hold in connection with the March Chapter 11 filing by RWL Investments LLC.

The venture that bears the initials of Ron Lazenby owns a mix of 25 commercial and residential properties in central Arkansas. The portfolio, which includes the famed Villa Marre in downtown Little Rock, secures more than $8.5 million of debt.

The Lazenbys personally guaranteed the RWL debt, and two west Little Rock homes they own are in play.

Centennial agreed to halt its February foreclosure suit to allow the couple time to sell RWL assets as well as their Chenal Valley home at 20 Chenal Circle and a house at 3217 N. Rodney Parham Road in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood.

“The basic plan was to give them six months to sell the bigger properties,” said Jim Penick, Centennial’s lawyer. “We didn’t get a contract on those properties, and the sand has run out of the hourglass.”

The 7,905-SF Chenal Circle abode and the 4,000-SF Pleasant Valley residence aren’t owned by RWL Investments but are tangled in the Lazenbys’ financial turmoil.

Among their creditors is the Internal Revenue Service, which filed a $120,822 lien for outstanding taxes from 2011-13. The IRS breakdown of taxes owed by the Lazenbys reads $22,266 in 2011, $60,979 for 2012 and $37,576 for 2013.

The highest profile property owned by RWL Investments is the Villa Marre at 1321 Scott St. in downtown Little Rock. The 135-year-old residence serves as the commercial home of RWL Investments as well as a destination for weddings and other events.

The historic house gained a national audience when exterior shots of the home were featured in each episode of the “Designing Women” TV series during its 1986-93 run.

The Villa Marre is among a group of 10 properties securing a nearly $2 million loan from First Community Bank of Eastern Arkansas in Marion. The bank is the single largest creditor of RWL Investments.

The portfolio of RWL Investments includes conventional commercial properties such as the 11,000-SF Village Green retail project at 3065 Hwy. 367 in Cabot, the 5,000-SF Winner’s Plaza office building in Maumelle and the 7,900-SF office project at 5111 JFK Blvd. in North Little Rock.

In its Chapter 11 filing, RWL Investments claims to own assets worth more than $11.1 million. The list includes a healthy dose of residential renovation projects that helped the financial dominoes begin falling, according to Ron Lazenby.

“There wasn’t any one significant event,” Lazenby said. “We kind of got away from what we did well, which was managing commercial projects, and got into historical renovations.

“We weren’t able to generate the rents needed to support the cost of those residential projects.”

Centennial Bank is the second-largest creditor among a half-dozen lenders with delinquent loan claims against RWL Investments. The bankruptcy petition tallies the combined Centennial debt at $1.9 million.

While attempting to reorganize its debts in Chapter 11, RWL Investments received court approval to hire two real estate firms to help convert assets into cash.

The Charlotte John Co. was marketing eight residential properties in Little Rock, and Newmark Grubb Arkansas is marketing five commercial projects scattered across Little Rock, North Little Rock, Maumelle and Cabot.

To date, only one of those listings has sold.

A 2,050-SF house at 608 N. Spruce St. in the Hillcrest neighborhood brought $240,000 in September. The residence was among a group of four properties securing $1.3 million of debt held by BancorpSouth Bank of Tupelo, Mississippi.

The house was valued at $350,000 among RWL’s list of assets and specifically secured $295,715 of debt.

The gap among valuation, debt and sales price of the Hillcrest house doesn’t establish a good starting point to restore the fortunes of RWL Investments.

Stacy Wilson of Newmark Grubb Arkansas reports the sale of RWL’s 9,800-SF office building at 2 Van Circle is scheduled to close in the next few days.

“That’s a done deal,” she said, declining to reveal the purchase price in the pending deal.

The Village Green project and Winner’s Plaza have drawn offers, but the would-be buyers and lenders couldn’t find middle ground, Wilson reports.

“They were just too far apart in price,” she said.

According to its Chapter 11 filing, RWL Investments recorded annual revenue of $749,554 in both 2014 and 2015.

Even with the respite from debt service afforded by the Chapter 11 protection, the venture is operating at a loss.

“We’re in the process of trying to work out a plan and try to move forward,” Ron Lazenby said.

RWL Investments Properties

First Community Bank of Eastern Arkansas   Debt Secured
5405, 5409 & 8211 Geyer Springs Road Little Rock  
5301 & 5307 Mabelvale Pike Little Rock
1315 & 1321 Scott St. (Villa Marre) Little Rock
103 & 105 42nd Place North Little Rock
3000 Olive St. Pine Bluff
  Total $1,975,000
Centennial Bank    
7515 Geyer Springs Road Little Rock $638,875
10503 Stagecoach Road Little Rock $462,533
604 W. Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive
1817 Broadway
Little Rock $434,426
2315 S. Chester St. Little Rock $199,096
2323 S. Chester St. Little Rock $183,537
  Total $1,918,467
First Security Bank    
5111 JFK Blvd.
3306 H St.
North Little Rock
Little Rock
1921 Fair Park Blvd. Little Rock $75,000
1721-1725 Main St. Little Rock $25,000
  Total $1,445,000
BancorpSouth Bank    
2 Van Circle Little Rock $613,000
1612 Broadway Little Rock $208,216
1619 Broadway Little Rock $153,910
  Total $975,126
U.S. Bank    
Winner’s Plaza, 501 Millwood Circle Maumelle
  Total $935,000
Eagle Bank & Trust    
Village Green, 3065 Hwy. 367 Cabot
Total $835,450
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