Then & Now: Mitchell Massey leaves headaches of Great Recession behind

by Paul Gatling (pgatling@nwabj.com) 754 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the June 24 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s  Forty Under 40 class.

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Fifteen years after he was chosen as a member of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class, Mitchell Massey still has the entrepreneurial bug — even though he’s been stung by it in the past.

In 2004, Massey was the owner of Massey Holdings, a limited liability company for his business interests in a number of areas including property management, real estate investments, a hydraulics company and a site and utility company.

In the heyday of Northwest Arkansas’ early- to mid-2000s development, Massey was a player. One of his more notable deals was this: In 2005, he and business partner Gerald Johnston, the retired chief financial officer of Tyson Foods, paid $17 million for an undeveloped 56-acre commercial tract north of Pinnacle Hills Promenade, the nearly 1 million-square-foot lifestyle center under construction at the time in Rogers.

After investing about $1.5 million for dirt work and other improvements, Massey and Johnston flipped that property 15 months later for $27.1 million to developer Brandon Barber.

“We didn’t make $9 million, but we were pretty close,” Massey told the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal at the time. “It was certainly one of the better projects I was involved with in Northwest Arkansas.”

If that represented one of Massey’s professional high points, 2009 was a low point. Massey Holdings was no more. And Massey, hit hard by the sharp decline in economic activity during the late 2000s, filed for personal bankruptcy protection in April that year.

“The recession took care of all those [his companies],” Massey said in a recent interview. “I got an education. As a young entrepreneur, I was chasing too many rabbits, and I learned some valuable lessons. You can spread yourself too thin if you get too many things going at the same time.

“I had to start over.”

As a real estate developer with no real estate to develop, not to mention a young family to support, Massey said starting over meant reinventing himself. “Make lemonade out of lemons,” he said.

Massey’s holding company these days is called GFB Investments, an entity he said that acts as a “very involved operating partner” in a variety of ventures.

One of those is a decade-long relationship with WM Capital Partners, an equity fund which maintains dual headquarters in New York City and Austin, Texas.

Massey is the firm’s operating partner in Northwest Arkansas, where its holdings include buildings, land and non-performing loans.

GFB Investments is also a partner in Custom Craft Poultry, a small poultry processing company with a manufacturing facility in northeast Arkansas that processes between 800,000 and 1 million pounds of chicken each week. The company employs about 175 people, but Massey declined to discuss any financial information.

Another large operation under the GFB Investments umbrella is Southwest Auto Collection, a group of investors that formed to purchase three dealerships in April 2018 that previously belonged to Gildner Auto Group in Arkadelphia.

Massey is also a minority owner in Arkansas Medicinal Source Patient Center, one of 32 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Arkansas. The storefront is being planned at 406 Razorback Drive, just off Walton Boulevard, in Bentonville.

“No matter what side of the [medical marijuana] issue you stand on, I believe it’s a medicine that can help a lot of people,” Massey said. “It’s also an opportunity to be involved in a growing industry.”

Massey says he also sees growth potential in the region’s downtowns. He and a group of investors found success in stabilizing the 84,000-square-foot Legacy Building, a distressed asset in downtown Fayetteville. He’s also involved in renovating an historic building on the Fayetteville square, a three-story building built in the 1950s known historically as the old First National Bank building.

He said GFB is also involved in some renovation projects in downtown Rogers.

“We live in a great community, and I want to do my part to make Northwest Arkansas a better place for myself and others to raise their families,” Massey said.

Massey said even with his assorted business pursuits, he enjoys staying busy with his family.

He and his wife, Lori, have been married for 15 years and have three daughters — Maggie (13), Marin (11) and Emmy (9).

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