Bank sues Rogers Photo Archive chief

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/CARY JENKINS
 Donna Hardcastle, John Rogers and Errin Dean
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/CARY JENKINS Donna Hardcastle, John Rogers and Errin Dean

First Arkansas Bank and Trust of Jacksonville on Friday sued John Rogers of North Little Rock, owner of Rogers Photo Archive, for $14.2 million for loans the bank made that haven't been repaid.

The lawsuit was filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court.

Rogers began borrowing money from First Arkansas in December 2011, starting with a $7.1 million line of credit and a $2.9 million term loan, the lawsuit said. Rogers provided an unconditional guaranty for the loans, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit doesn't say what the money was used for, but Rogers is known for spending millions of dollars to acquire the photo archives of some of the largest newspapers in the country.

Rogers amended the loans in June 2012 and took out an additional loan of $1.5 million, the lawsuit said. In December 2012, he extended the maturity date of the line of credit to June 2013. In April last year, Rogers borrowed another $3.5 million from the bank.

In all, Rogers made five amendments to the original loan, finally extending the maturity date of the line of credit to December 2015, the lawsuit said.

In addition to the $14.2 million Rogers owes the bank, interest is also accruing at the rate of $2,285 a day.

The biggest obstacle among the loans for First Arkansas is the $3.5 million loan that was made in April last year, Rogers said in an interview Friday.

In January, Rogers' business and home were searched by FBI agents, although no official reason for the search was provided publicly. The agents took several items worth well over $1 million, Rogers said. Those items had been collateral on the $3.5 million loan, Rogers said.

First Arkansas therefore called the $3.5 million loan in, Rogers said.

"We have not been able to pay the full $3.5 million off," Rogers said. "They had to do what they had to do. But First Arkansas is still a great partner of ours. We still bank with them and have other loans with them."

Rogers has asked the FBI to return "all of our authentic materials," Rogers said. "Hopefully we'll get a quick response on that. That has greatly hindered us in operating our business."

There have been rumors that his business is bankrupt and out of business, "but that could not be further from the truth," Rogers said.

Rogers Photo Archive recently acquired the photo archives of the Massachusetts Berkshire Eagle and Connecticut's New Haven Register, Rogers said.

"And we've landed licensing agreements with Shutterstock and Getty Images," Rogers said. "They are going to represent large portions of our archives, millions of images, which will greatly affect our bottom line and be able to take care of the bank."

Rogers' 10-year-old company, which reportedly has the world's largest privately held photographic image collection, has grown rapidly during the past few years. Starting as a sports-memorabilia collector, Rogers expanded his business to the point where the company has archived more than 120 million photographs and negatives and more than 50 million digital-only images.

In 2008, Rogers spent $1.6 million to buy a rare 1909 Honus Wagner baseball card.

Rogers also was sued in July over failure to meet a payment in a $1.35 million acquisition of historic baseball photographs in Chicago.

Rogers' wife, Angelica Rogers, filed for divorce in August, and the couple's North Little Rock house is listed for sale for $2.5 million.

Roger Rowe, a Little Rock attorney who represents First Arkansas, did not return a call seeking comment.

Larry Wilson, chairman and chief executive officer of First Arkansas, also did not return a call.

Business on 09/06/2014

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