Who is Warren Stephens?

Warren Amerine Stephens is the chairman, president and CEO of Stephens Inc., a full service, privately held investment bank. 

He was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in February 1957. 

Stephens went to Trinity Presbyterian High School before attending Washington and Lee University. He got his MBA from Wake Forest University, graduating in 1981. 

Upon graduating, Stephens was weighing opportunities at Trust Co. of Georgia (now SunTrust) and Mobil Oil. A business school professor-turned-friend and mentor pointed him in another direction.

Stephens decided to join the family business, joining the Stephens, Inc. team in the corporate-finance department and was reportedly given a desk in a hallway.

By 1983, he was named head of corporate finance.

Three short years later, on February 18, 1986, he and fellow Stephens Inc., executives were summoned to the Coachman’s Inn for a surprise announcement. There, Stephens was named CEO of Stephens Inc. It was his 29th birthday.

Stephens continues to operate the family business with the same philosophy as his father and uncle, building an investment bank that was centered around relationships.

Stephens has served as the CEO of Stephens, Inc. for over 30 years. 

He believes his own children – Miles, John and Laura – will one day take up the reins of the family business, though they’ve never been prompted to do so.

Stephens is quick to credit to the country’s economic and political structure for the successes of his family business. Capitalism, he says, made it all possible.

Stephens has made it his mission to share the virtues of capitalism with the world. That’s why, in 2017, he launched a video series celebrating capitalism - called This is Capitalism - through the stories of hardworking Americans whose independent spirits and hard work exemplify the economic system.

He has owned 100 percent of Stephens, Inc. since 2006. 

Stephens was inducted into the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame in February 2019.  

More on Stephens, Inc. 

In 1933, Witt Stephens, Warren’s uncle, established the firm to trade Arkansas Highway bonds, then selling for as low as pennies on the dollar. By the time the bonds paid off at par in the early ‘40s, Stephens has gained a reputation for both municipal bond expertise and for providing sound financial counseling.

In 1945, Stephens, Inc. purchased the Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Co. 

In 1946, Jackson T. “Jack” Stephens, Warren’s father, joined his brother upon his graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. He became president in 1956. 

In 1948, Allied Telephone began a decades-long relationship with Stephens. The company will ultimately evolve into global telecom giant Alltel.

In 1954, Stephens, Inc. purchased the Arkansas Louisiana Gas Co. (ArkLa Gas)  

In 1970, Stephens, Inc. took Walmart public. At the time, the company was small Arkansas-based discount retailer.

In 1971, Together with the First National Bank of Commerce, Stephens, Inc. underwrote $113 million in municipal bonds to help build the Louisiana Superdome. At the time, this was the largest single municipal bond issue in the history of the Southern states. 

In 1989, with the guidance of Stephens, Inc., Tyson Foods acquires Holly Farms for $1.5 billion. 

The same year, Stephens Inc. became a member of the New York Stock Exchange.

Stephens, Inc. has 24 offices in 13 states and the UK.  

See Warren Stephens speak on business and entrepreneurship on Tuesday, Oct. 8, at the David and Barbara Pryor Center in Downtown Fayetteville. The event will begin at 6 p.m. 

Submit your questions for Warren Stephens by emailing caleb@startupjunkie.org. Include your name and organization for recognition when your question is read on stage. Register for the free event here.