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story.lead_photo.caption Warren Stephens is shown in this photo.

NEW YORK -- He's a billionaire who took over his father's business and expanded it ambitiously. Over the years, he's owned fine wines, a fleet of jets and an exclusive golf course, and has handed out money to politicians in both parties.

There end the similarities between Warren Stephens and Donald Trump. As Trump moves toward the Republican presidential nomination, Stephens, an investment banker from Little Rock, has emerged as one of the real-estate mogul's deepest-pocketed opponents within the party.

With Trump leading in the delegate count, his Republican opponents are focused on preventing him from winning the outright majority that would guarantee his nomination. A trio of conservative groups not affiliated with any candidate has spent about $28 million against him, mostly on negative ads that aired in the past few weeks. So far, the effort has failed to dent his popularity.

Stephens and his brother, Jackson "Steve" Stephens Jr., gave a total of $3.5 million last month to two of these groups, according to filings Sunday with the Federal Election Commission, on top of $500,000 last year.

The filings show only one other family, the Ricketts clan of Omaha, Neb., that's a bigger contributor to the stop-Trump campaign, having given $5 million since January. Other backers of the effort revealed in the filings were Paul Singer, the New York hedge-fund manager, who gave $1 million; and William Oberndorf, a San Francisco investor, who gave $500,000.

While Trump parlayed his exploits as a New York developer into international fame and a reality TV career, Stephens has cultivated a lower profile. But his family's name has been a powerful one in Arkansas for decades.

According to a 2012 profile in Barron's that calls Stephens "The King of Little Rock," his uncle, Witt, a cigar-chomping former Bible salesman, founded the investment bank in 1933. The firm passed to Witt's brother Jackson Sr., then to Warren Stephens. Forbes estimates Stephens' personal fortune at $2.4 billion.

In 2004, Stephens opened an exclusive, world-class golf club overlooking Lake Maumelle outside Little Rock. "I don't really know how much money I've spent on it," he told Barron's.

Stephens is a longtime Republican donor, although he supported former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton in his first presidential run in 1992. The financier and his wife were later rewarded with an overnight stay in the Lincoln Bedroom, a White House perk the president handed out to hundreds of supporters. (Stephens backed Republican Bob Dole during Clinton's re-election campaign.)

During the current race, Stephens has handed out a total of $300,000 to super PACs supporting Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Chris Christie, all of whom have since dropped out of the effort to become the Republican nominee.

Most of the Stephenses' giving in recent years has been to a super PAC run by Club for Growth, a powerful conservative group that pushes for limited government and lower taxes, and which has been one of the biggest spenders against Trump.

Steve Stephens, who runs Exoxemis, a biomedical company in Little Rock, is chairman of the Club for Growth. Reached by phone, he said he didn't want to comment on his donations or on the subject of Donald Trump.

He did mention, however, that he's a songwriter and keyboardist in a progressive-rock band called Rayburn. He pointed to a 2012 number that he said "kind of expressed what I may feel about certain political types."

It's on YouTube, and it's called "Keep the Change." The lyrics include:

You call your own shots

Breakin' every law

Burning down what our fathers built.

A Section on 03/22/2016

Print Headline: LR's Stephens spends millions against Trump


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Archived Comments

  • Jackabbott
    March 22, 2016 at 9:57 a.m.

    Too bad he cannot spend this "pocket" change money on scholarships for some deserving students in Arkansas or use it as seed money to help in the fight against cancer instead of trying to tell us who to vote for and who to support in order to gain some type of economic gain for himself.

  • MaxCady
    March 22, 2016 at 10:22 a.m.

    The poorest people in the world are those who have more than they need and feel it isn't enough.

  • MaxCady
    March 22, 2016 at 11:33 a.m.

    My mama said, "no matter how hard you hug your money, it never hugs you back."

  • Murphy01
    March 22, 2016 at 11:58 a.m.

    Yeah Jack maybe you should drive down to UAMS and read the name on the spinal institute building, or maybe that little school across from the Dillards HQ. In no way am I trying to defend the family here, pretty sure they don't need or want my help, but they have given millions over the years to medicine, schools, the arts, and sporting facilities. I love it, you say he's telling us how to vote yet your trying to tell him how to spend his money. His money. If he wants to burn it that's his business not ours.

  • nlwright
    March 22, 2016 at 1:05 p.m.

    Warren spends millions on super PAC for personal financial gain is more appropriate headline. He should pay more personal taxes and his investment businesses need regulation to protect the rest of us from them taking too much risk.

  • G37dude
    March 22, 2016 at 1:08 p.m.

    Anyitme Wall Street panics and gives to Anti-anything campaigns, they have something to hide that they don't want coming to light.....Nice Warren, great to blow money on anti-pac anything instead of using that money for your home state needs.

  • PopMom
    March 22, 2016 at 1:12 p.m.

    The Stephens gave $20 million to UALR and gave the U.S. Naval Academy their football field. I know Warren is on the board at Washington & Lee so I am sure that he has given there as well. Stopping Trump is money well spent. I think this may be a donation to stop the country from ruin. It is unfortunate that the Republicans did not support Kasich from the beginning. It also is unfortunate that it has taken more than 20 years to realize the damage that these trade deals have wreaked on those who worked for manufacturers. We should be training people to install solar panels and work on infrastructure projects.

  • Packman
    March 22, 2016 at 1:37 p.m.

    Of course Stephens is anti-Trump. Warren Stephens represents the elite ruling class in America and is scared sh*tless at what Donald Trump represents. Stephens and Wall Street buy politicians like you or I buy bread and milk - it's their lifeblood (See Hillary Clinton and those speaking fees paid by Wall Street, for example.). Donald Trump represents a revolt against the ruling elite and politics as usual. To Warren Stephens and his ilk it's not about liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat. It's about power and control regardless of who's in office. The can't buy Donald Trump, and it scares them to death.

  • LSS
    March 22, 2016 at 5:11 p.m.

    So Stevens does not want the will of the American people to prevail? Does this mean he wants to keep the American people down and under his thumb??? Typical of those in power. Instead of throwing his money around for reasons of hate - why doesn't he give some money to that poor woman who was scammed out of $4600 of her cancer money?

  • Skeptic1
    March 22, 2016 at 6:59 p.m.

    People only contribute that much when they are promised something in return. How about using that money to put a cop in a house on every block in the hood? Imagine how fast the drug dealers would take off and kids would start playing outside again? Spending that kind of money just to stop someone from being elected that isn't owned by any special interest or party elites seems a bit immoral.