Craig Hull Remembers Longtime Friend Lee Harris, Developer Gary Combs

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Hull & Co. principal Craig Hull has been on the commercial real estate scene in Northwest Arkansas for almost two decades, and during that time he’s made some high-powered connections.

Before poultry magnate Lee Harris died in 2007, Hull counted him as a close friend and mentor.

“He befriended me when I was a new agent,” Hull said.

Throughout the years, Hull advised Harris on some complicated issues, including the obtainment of a permit for a fertilizer plant on the west side of Highway 112, near Shadow Valley Country Club in Rogers.

“What a guy,” Hull said of Harris. “He was a contemporary of Red Hudson, Don Tyson, J.B. Hunt and all those guys, but he was just a modest farmer in overalls and an old red pickup truck.”

In fact, Hull owns one of Harris’ trucks, a 1996 Ford. 

“He showed that, whether or not you have some wealth, there’s no substitute for just being an all-around great guy,” Hull said.

Hull also had a front-row seat to the drama that unfolded with the boom and bust of the real estate industry a few years back, and it starred some larger-than-life developers.

“I dealt with Gary Combs, Tom Terminella. I got to deal with most of the players that were doing the big stuff,” Hull said.

One deal Hull brokered involved Combs and Tyson Foods Inc. at a time when he and Carla Tyson, chairman John Tyson’s sister, were embroiled in a very public divorce in 2002.

Combs, who helped develop major projects that include Pinnacle Hills Parkway, was a controversial figure at the time of his death in 2012 because of his legal battles with local banks, one of which he publicly lambasted in an airplane banner ad campaign.

Hull, however, has nothing but kind words for him.

“We were comrades,” Hull said. “He was quite a character, an amazing guy. He had lots of energy and the guts to go off and do things before anyone else saw the potential.”

Hull also worked with former developer Brandon Barber, who is now serving 65 months in federal prison for money laundering and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

Hull’s take on Barber is less warm and fuzzy.

“He was an a**hole, and you can put that in print if you want to,” Hull said. “He was an arrogant [expletive].”