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50 top private companies in Arkansas.



Completing this year's list of Arkansas' top private companies wasn't nearly as hard as last year simply because we had some building blocks in place. You'll notice that we qualify ourselves, because a list of this nature oftentimes ends up missing some companies.

This year's list was rounded out with several new players -- five from the ranks of Arkansas-based auto dealerships. Seven companies were clipped from the list for various reasons.

For those who ask the question "Who's the biggest," there's another qualification. We choose revenues as the measuring stick, because that information is readily available. But it doesn't fit well for some companies.

Take Stephens Holding Group, for example. The company, owned jointly by brothers W.R. (Witt) and Jackson T. Stephens, controls or has ownership positions in more than 80 corporations, partnerships and joint ventures. Annual revenues don't provide a good picture of their holdings, although we put Stephens Inc. fifth on our list with $350 million in 1988 revenues.

We use a figure from Forbes Magazine, which had the company at $695 million in revenues in 1987.

Most of the companies don't change positions on our list. Truman Arnold Co., however, took a big leap. Truman Arnold founded the Road Runner chain of convenience stores and recently sold those stores. His group of companies, according to our research, went from 12th on our 1988 list ($150 million in 1987 revenues) to second ($450 in 1988 annual revenues). The higher figure was confirmed by company officials, although there was no explanation for the big jump in revenues.

As we learn from doing this list, we find that many companies that give financial information to credit services like Dun & Bradstreet and Standard & Poor's don't tell all the story. So we just have to hunt a little harder.

An article on the rise of mega-auto dealers (Arkansas Business Feb. 13-Feb. 26, 1989) supplied five new members to the list: Cliff Peck Chevrolet, soon to be Service Chevrolet, No. 21 with $113 million in revenues; Moore Management Group of North Little Rock, No. 25 with $80 million; McLarty Management Corp. of Little Rock, No. 26 with $76.4 million; Harold Gwatney Chevrolet, No. 32 with $61.7 million; and the Jones Brothers group of dealerships, No. 50 with $44.3 million in revenues.

Gwatney just missed the list last year, but the purchase of a Memphis dealership pushed it over the top and past Russell Chevrolet-Honda (No. 44, $49.5 million.)

We culled a bit from the list, too. Donrey Media, the $276-million revenue newspaper chain, has some operations in Fort Smith. That's where founder Don Reynolds got his start in the business. Continual objections from corporate executives that Las Vegas, Nev., is headquarters prompted us to honor their wishes this year.

We also knocked Walton Enterprises off our list, but not because the we don't claim the Walton family. This is one secretive company, and although we were able to obtain a 1986 financial statement for last year's list, we struck out on getting a good revenue figure for 1988.

The Phillips Co. is a subsidiary of Walton Enterprises, so we left them on the list at $230 million.

Much of Walton Enterprises' revenues consists of dividends on the Walton family stock in Wal-Mart Stores. Recently, the family took steps to split its ownership of Wal-Mart out of the Walton Enterprises corporation into a partnership. Tax reasons, we're told.

Even though the stock is only paper, as founder Sam Walton remarked after the stock crash, it does yield dividends of 22 cents per share annually, which brings in about $10 million from his 44.3 million shares.

Another sideline of the family is bank-buying. This year, we included the family's Heartland Group (No. 49, $44.7 million in revenues), which consists of banks in Rogers, Pea Ridge, Fayetteville, and Siloam Springs and 50 percent of Security National Bank of Norman, Okla.

Arkansas Freightways dropped off for another reason -- it became the state's newest public company. Last year, Freightways had revenues of $47.5 million. At offering time earlier this year, revenues were $73 million -- which would have gained the company spot No. 28 if it hadn't taken the public leap.

A couple of other companies lost significant contracts or were sold during the past year, and therefore didn't make the $44 million cut. Those include Piggly Wiggly (sold to Malone & Hyde), Winrock Enterprises, GES, Inc. (a split in the partnership) and Bell International (lost a contract).

Significantly, Petit Jean Poultry dropped from $102 million to $26 million -- caused by a change in ownership of the birds it processes in its Danville plant. The company, for those who don't keep up with these things, is owned by Jerral Jones, new owner of the Dallas Cowboy football team.
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Title Annotation:includes text
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:directory
Date:Jul 17, 1989
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