Four Join Business Hall of Fame
By David Smith
Photo by Benjamin Krain
LITTLE ROCK — About three years after Walter E. Hussman Jr. took over as publisher of the Arkansas Democrat in 1974, the paper was in such poor condition that he thought there was only one way to remain in business - ask his rival to agree to a joint operating agreement.
Hussman proposed to the publisher of the Arkansas Gazette that the two papers operate together, with the Gazette continuing each year to retain the same earnings it had previously made and then split additional profits90 percent to the Gazette and 10 percent for the Democrat, Philip Anderson, Hussman’s attorney since 1974, said in an interview Friday.
The 10 percent would cover the loan taken out to finance the Democrat, Anderson said.
“He was giving up,” Anderson said, “but he wanted to have an editorial voice in Little Rock.”
But Hugh Patterson of the Gazette declined the offer.
The Gazette’s rejection, however, only motivated Hussman, who was one of four inductees Friday into the Arkansas Business Hallof Fame at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock.
Also inducted Friday were John Ed Anthony, chairman of Bearden-based Anthony Timberlands Inc.; Wayne Cranford, chairman emeritus of Little Rock advertising agency Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods; and Jack Shewmaker, a former president and chief operating officer at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Shewmaker died in November 2010.
The Gazette’s snub was the first shot in what became known as the Newspaper War in Little Rock.
Hussman accepted the challenge and began to study other newspapers in competitive markets. One of his first strategies was to offer free classified advertising. He also offered display advertising for $1 an inch to the four largest retail advertisers of the Gazette, Anderson said.
Eventually the Gazette was sold to Gannett Co. Inc., the largest newspaper chain in the country.
“I think them selling the Gazette to Gannett was good for us,” Hussman told more than 600 in attendance Friday night.
The Democrat gradually began to dominate the market, and in 1991 Hussman bought the assets of the Gazette after Gannett closed it.
“He is not seen as an aggressive, competitive businessman who is always looking for an edge,” but he is, said Larry Wilson, a Jacksonville banker who introduced Hussman.
Hussman is also chief executive officer of WEHCO Media, Inc., which operates 14 daily newspapers, 11 weekly newspapers and 13 cable television companies in six states.
Anthony inherited his family’s business in 1961, a month before his college graduation, when his father died of a heart attack.
Anthony took that timberland operation, which covered about 70,000 acres in 1961, to more than 175,000 acres by 2006, making it the largest independent owner of timberlands in Arkansas.
Anthony probably is better known as the owner of Loblolly Stable, one of the major thoroughbred racing operations in the country, from 1973 to 1998. His horses Temperence Hill, Pine Bluff and Prairie Bayou won Triple Crown races in a 13-year span.During the same span, Temperence Hill, Demons Begone and Pine Bluff all won the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs.One of his principles, Anthony said, is to “keep yourself in the best of company but your horses in the worst.”
That philosophy has helped Anthony Timberlands compete against larger timber companies such as Georgia Pacific Corp. and Potlatch Corp., he said.
“They are bigger, but they also are very slow,” Anthony said.
Cranford began his advertising career in 1961 when he and Jim Johnson formed Cranford Johnson with $4,000 and no clients.
They soon landed the advertising account for the political campaign of Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright. Over the years, the firm has represented major firms such as Alltel Corp., Acxiom Corp., Entergy Corp., and Tyson Foods Inc.
It also has represented the state tourism agency, Cranford said.
Over the years, the agency has been able to “introduce people to the great state of Arkansas and chicken nuggets,” Cranford said.
Since 1993, Cranford has served as chairman emeritus of the advertising agency, which now employs almost 100 people and bills $82 million annually.
Shewmaker was one of the early primary leaders for Wal-Mart, joining the retailer in 1970 after a three-hour meeting over coffee at a Howard Johnson’s motel with Sam Walton, founder of the company.
Shewmaker had ideas on retailing that he wanted to try, but his employers before Wal-Mart wouldn’t listen to him.
“I had a lot of ideas about retailing and discounting,” Shewmaker said in a video presentation at the ceremony. “But they weren’t the conventional wisdom ideas.”
Shewmaker is credited with developing Wal-Mart’s “Everyday Low Prices” strategy and the use of bar codes within the company.
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Business, Pages 29 on 02/11/2012
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