I was somewhat surprised to see only a brief caption in the Democrat-Gazette this morning about the sale of the old Union National skyscraper downtown for $9.25 million. Seller was the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System. Buyer was an Arizona investor.
The back story is rich and voluminous. PERS got hung with this turkey for a grossly inflated $11.7 million thanks to skulduggery involving the later-convicted Sen. Nick Wilson and real estate magnate John Flake. The deal, and a commission Wilson landed out of it but somehow failed to report to proper authorities, featured prominently in Wilson's income tax evasion trial. The grossly inflated sale price was only the beginning. The system had to pour more than $2 million into repairs on the facade, plus who knows how much other work over the years. And I don't think the leasing history was much of a success story either. Suffice it to say $11.7 million was worth a lot more in 1994, when this building was purchased, than it's worth today. Heckuva deal.