Little Rock Athletic Club Gets New Ownership

The Little Rock Athletic Club announced to employees and members a change in ownership to a group of Little Rock investors who include Warren Stephens.Below are the letters, the first from previous owner and founder of the clubs, Pat Riley, Jr., to employees, and the second from new owner and CEO Frank Lawrence to members of the clubs.

From Pat Riley, Jr.

For the past 28 years, the central axis of my life has revolved around the creation, management and nurturance of the Little Rock Athletic Club, Little Rock Racquet Club, North Little Rock Athletic Club and Downtown Athletic Club. It has been an amazing journey filled with good fortune, wonderful relationships and great memories. But now, I have decided it is time for me to pass the baton to others who will care for these Clubs, their members and staff, in the same way I have.

Effective today, April 1, 2013, the ownership of the four Clubs is changing hands. The new owners are primarily composed of a group of executives from Stephens Inc. including Brad Eichler (majority owner), Warren Stephens, Doug Martin, Noel Strauss and Jackson Farrow. Brad, Doug and Noel have been friends of mine for most of my life; we all grew up as competitive swimmers at the Little Rock Racquet Club. Doug’s involvement is especially meaningful to me as his encouragement and belief in me was pivotal when I first floated the idea to create the LRAC almost thirty years ago.

Brad, Doug, Noel and Frank Lawrence (the new CEO) have all been members of the LRAC/LRRC for most of the time that I’ve been involved. Their great interest in taking the helm of these clubs emanates from their experience as members. Their goal is to operate the Clubs in the same tradition and with the same service culture that exists now. To that end, their intention and desire is to maintain all of the fantastic staff that are currently in place.

The new ownership also understands the historical importance of regular capital improvements as a vital part of our success and it is their plan to continue this practice. Last but not least, is the new owners’ appreciation of these Clubs as a source of pride within the Little Rock/North Little Rock community. I believe that maintaining a local, active ownership is essential to carrying on the tradition of quality, service and reinvestment that you’ve come to expect.

New CEO and owner, Frank Lawrence will provide on site and daily management for the new ownership group. While Frank is not a Stephen’s employee, he too has enjoyed a successful career in the financial services industry. Additionally, Frank developed and co-owns two local CrossFit gyms (CrossFit Little Rock and West Little Rock CrossFit) which gives him direct experience managing in the health/fitness services field. Importantly, Frank also has a solid background, knowledge and interest in tennis. (He was a collegiate player at Hendrix.)

I have gotten to know Frank over the past few months and am convinced he is the right person to lead our organization. Frank, I’ve discovered, is a thoughtful listener who emphasizes team building and realizes that our ultimate success stems from serving our members. He knows that the Clubs are working well and his goal is to enhance and support our current systems rather than change them.

I will be on site throughout the initial transition and available as a consultant thereafter for as long as I am needed. My primary goal is to train Frank in all aspects of our operation so he has the information he needs to successfully lead this organization.

My involvement with these Clubs has been an all-consuming labor of love and represents the pinnacle of my business career. My stewardship would not be complete and I could not rest unless I believed the Clubs were being left in competent and caring hands. I do believe that is the case and it is my fervent hope that the Clubs will not only maintain their level of excellence but continuously improve under the guidance of Brad, Frank and their team.

As always, I appreciate everyone’s support of and belief in these Clubs.



And from Frank Lawrence

Dear Members,

I would like to take this opportunity to briefly introduce myself. My name is Frank Lawrence, and effective today, April 1, I am assuming the role of CEO for the newly formed Little Rock Athletic Centers. It is my goal to continue the tradition of excellence that Pat Riley, Jr., has established at these Clubs.

For more than a decade, Brad and I have developed a great deal of admiration for the business that Pat has built. It is a winning combination of a wonderful membership base, outstanding employees and world class facilities. Our goal is to build on this foundation and continue to focus every day on delivering the best possible experience to our members.

I am a native of Russellville and graduate of Hendrix College. I have been a lifelong athlete involved in football, baseball, rugby, tennis, running, triathlons and most recently CrossFit. While growing up, I often played in junior tennis tournaments at the LRRC and LRAC. In college, I competed for the Hendrix tennis team. I have been involved in the banking industry my entire working career and also opened the first CrossFit gym in central Arkansas – CrossFit Little Rock. This opportunity merges my lifelong passions – connecting people, health and wellness – and running a successful business. I have described this as my “dream

job.” My focus every day will be on helping people improve their lives through health and fitness, and I look forward to working with a team of professionals dedicated to the same goal.

I have been blessed with a wonderfully supportive family and a deep network of friends. My wife of 20 years, Jill, and two children, Jack (13) and Caroline (9), have also enjoyed being Club members for many years. Jill is a local interior designer/owner of J. Lawrence Design, while Jack and Caroline each attend Episcopal Collegiate School. Our family enjoys working hard and playing hard, spending time with our friends and giving back to our community in any way we can.

I am excited to be given the honor and privilege to build upon Pat’s legacy and will commit to you that the Clubs’ guiding values will not change.

I look forward to meeting you!

Frank Lawrence

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