Improved Prices Show on List of Top Stockholders

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The stock market may be nothing to write home about in 2010 – the Dow Jones Industrial Average was trading the first week of September almost exactly where it opened for the year.

But the year-over-year improvement in stock prices for many publicly traded companies is evident in Arkansas Business’ annual list of major stock holdings by Arkansans.

The list ranks by value publicly disclosed stock holdings in excess of $1 million, and there were 112 Arkansans in that category as of Aug. 27. A year earlier – on Aug. 14, 2009, to be specific – only 88 Arkansas residents or families had publicly disclosed stockholdings in seven figures or more.

The information included in the list is gleaned from corporate proxy statements and Forms 3, 4 and 5 filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission. The SEC requires disclosure by officers, directors and any person or entity that owns at least 5 percent of the outstanding shares of any company.

The stockholders on the list can be presumed to have other investments, even in publicly traded companies, that aren’t made public and therefore aren’t included in the totals.

For instance, Curt Bradbury of Little Rock, the COO of Stephens Inc., has described himself as a stockholder of Bank of America Corp., but he isn’t required to disclose how many shares he owns.

Conversely, many of the names specifically deny ownership of some of the shares that they are required to disclose.

One notable example is Gary C. George of Springdale, who wasn’t on last year’s list at all because the 31,474 shares in J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. that he disclosed ownership of were worth just under the $1 million cutoff last August.

This year, he is No. 10 on the list with holdings worth $52.6 million because his latest disclosure also includes more than 1.53 million shares of J.B. Hunt stock owned by C.L. George & Sons LP of Fayetteville and Gene & Mary Frances George LP of Springdale.

“The reporting person disclaims beneficial ownership of these securities and this report shall not been deemed an admission that the reporting person is the beneficial owner of such securities,” according to a footnote on Gary George’s SEC disclosure.

It also helps that J.B. Hunt stock is more valuable this year than last – trading at $33.62 on Aug. 27, compared with $29.59 on the cutoff date in August 2009.

But that’s not true of all of the companies on the list.

The eternal top stockholders, the heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, were a wee bit less flush this year because Wal-Mart’s share price was $51 on the cutoff date, compared with $51.81 on the cutoff in 2009.

Less than a dollar per share makes a difference when multiplied by more than 1.7 billion shares.

The Waltons made up some of that decline when Hyatt Hotels Corp. of Chicago began trading publicly last November. Through Madrone Capital Partners LLC of Menlo Park, Calif., and other entities associated with Rob Walton and his son-in-law, Gregory B. Penner, the Walton family gets credit for more than 10.2 million shares of Hyatt stock, which closed at $37.62 on Aug. 27.

That’s an improvement of 39 percent over the initial public offering price of $27 and worth almost $384 million.

Top 10

Improvement in Tyson Foods Inc.’s stock price moved the Don Tyson Family from No. 4 on last year’s list to No. 2 this year.

With barely any additions to their 74.6 million shares of Class A and Class B stock, Don, John and Barbara Tyson saw their combined fortune grow from less than $850 million in August 2009 to almost $1.24 billion last month.

Last year’s No. 2 place holder, the family of Charles Murphy, dropped down one place as all three of their primary public company investments – Murphy Oil Corp., Deltic Timber Corp. and BancorpSouth Inc. – lost value per share.

And last year’s No. 3, the heirs of trucking magnate J.B. Hunt, slipped to No. 4 despite the improved stock price because Hunt’s widow, Johnelle, has sold more than 9 million shares over the past year. The Hunt holdings are still above $700 million.

J.B. Hunt Chairman Earl Wayne Garrison maintained his place at No. 5 on the list, but his fortune grew with the stock price: from $139.5 million last year to $160.4 million last month.

The Dillard family that controls the Dillard’s Inc. department store chain moved to sixth place on the strength of a per-share price ($21.57) that was double its August 2009 level.

The family fortune, which includes CEO William Dillard II’s holdings as a director of Barnes & Noble and Acxiom Corp., tops $150 million. It was more than $200 million in late April, when Dillard’s stock price briefly reached the $30 mark.

Another fortune aided by improved stock price is that of George G. Gleason, founder of Bank of the Ozarks Inc., and his wife, Linda.

Despite selling off about a half-million shares, the Gleason fortune grew from $82.2 million in August 2009 to $107.9 million in August of this year, good enough for No. 7 on the list. BOZ’s stock price was $24.77 on last year’s list and $37.26 as of Aug. 27, and has ranged a bit higher over the past year.

No. 8, Warren A. Stephens of Little Rock, owner of Stephens Inc., took a hit from the slumping stock price of his largest publicly traded investment: Conn’s Inc., the Beaumont, Texas, electronics retailer that the Stephens family has controlled since 1998 and took public in 2003.

After trading above $40 a share in early 2006, Conn’s was trading in the $13 range last year and closed at $4.60 on the list cutoff date.

His holdings have also been reduced from last year’s list because half of the shares of Vascular Solutions Inc. disclosed by SF Holding Corp. should have been credited to his cousins Witt Stephens Jr. and Elizabeth Stephens Campbell.

Witt Stephens Jr. and Elizabeth Campbell were No. 8 last year, but the addition of the Vascular Solutions shares couldn’t offset the drop in Conn’s share price combined with dispensing of their holdings in another Stephens family project, Power-One Inc. of Camarillo, Calif.

The siblings, listed as the W.R. “Witt” Stephens Sr. family, drop to No. 14 with $40 million in disclosed stock holdings.

John Allison, chairman of Home BancShares Inc. of Conway, moved to No. 9 on the list with $56.5 million in HBI stock.

He was paid $170,250 for the 68,100 shares of Lodgian Inc. he owned as a director when the Atlanta hotel operator was sold to a private group earlier this year. (Alex Lieblong of Conway, No. 26, was also a Lodgian director. His direct and indirect holdings netted $7.56 million from the sale.) 

Editor’s Note: The top stockholder’s list on the following pages has been truncated to the top 80. The entire list is available at