Springdale businessman Darin Gray, majority owner of Gray Matters LLC, is now the sole owner of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, which had been operating under joint ownership for nearly a decade.
Gray, who owned 75 percent of the Business Journal and three other publications, as well as the Internet site nwabusinessjournal.com, purchased the remaining ownership stake from Olivia Farrell, general partner of Arkansas Business Limited Partnership, the parent company of Little Rock-based Arkansas Business Publishing Group.
Terms of the deal, completed August 22, were not disclosed.
“This has been an absolutely wonderful partnership”, Gray said. “I’ve been so blessed that Olivia Farrell gave me a chance to come on board with her company and be taught the niche publishing industry. I am forever grateful that from the beginning, she gave me a chance to start and own Gray Matters.”
Farrell, president and CEO of ABPG, said the deal was bittersweet, noting the length of time since entering the Northwest Arkansas market.
“Over time, the companies began operating more and more independently of each other,” Farrell said. “But I think the world of Darin. I’ve been a big champion of his for some time, and there is a lot of mutual respect there.”
Gray, 48, also said he has stepped down as publisher of the Business Journal and named Rob Gutterridge as his successor, effective immediately.
Gutterridge joined Gray Matters as a brand strategist in March 2010. He was quickly promoted to sales manager three months later, and to associate publisher in May 2011.
“I’m blessed to work for Darin and Tami Gray,” Gutterridge said. “The last 3 ½ years have been a life change for me and all of it has been positive.”
The Business Journal was launched in April 1997 as a division of ABPG, parent company to Little Rock-based weekly publication Arkansas Business.
Gray, a Bryant native, joined ABPG that year as associate publisher of the Business Journal. He was promoted to publisher in 1999 and president of the Northwest Arkansas division in 2003.
He became majority owner of the Business Journal and three other publications — the Northwest Arkansas Newcomers Guide, Northwest Arkansas Guest Guide and the Northwest Arkansas Book of Lists — on June 17, 2004, when he bought controlling interest in the Northwest Arkansas division from ABLP.
Gray termed the buyout a natural progression for his company.
“There comes a time when change is required,” he explained. “This also gives the team members here who have worked tirelessly an opportunity to grow in leadership and responsibility. I’ve got a great leadership team here at Gray Matters.”
Gutterridge, a Pocahontas native, graduated with a communications degree from Arkansas State University in 2000. He moved to Northwest Arkansas in June 2001 and began a career with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, starting as a management trainee and working his way up to manage branch locations in Rogers and Springdale.
“His management style is that he handles it all,” Gray said. “You can’t load his plate up enough. The staff and clients love him and he has a passion to produce products that benefit the Northwest Arkansas business community.”
Gutterridge, 38, is just the fourth publisher in the Business Journal’s history. Jeff Hankins, formerly the publisher of Arkansas Business, was also publisher of the Northwest Arkansas division when it launched in 1997.
Jeff Wood, who joined the Business Journal in 1998, was the magazine’s publisher from February 2006 to October 2010.
Gutterridge said he is excited about the new position, noting additional personnel moves would be announced in the coming weeks.
“This is not our Business Journal, but Northwest Arkansas’ Business Journal, and that is the continued vision,” he said. “I’m excited about the future of our company.”
Gray said he would continue contributing to several statewide activities. In May, he was re-appointed by Gov. Mike Beebe to the Arkansas State Parks Tourism Recreation and Travel Commission.
Gray didn’t reveal any specific plans, but said his interest is to become more involved in endeavors that influence the overall economic well-being of the state.
“I’m uncertain at this point [what’s next],” he said. “There are several opportunities I’m considering, but my passion is to see Arkansas businesses grow and be prosperous.”