Inuvo, PrivacyStar considering relocation to LR's River Market

Originally published: April 8, 2015 in the Log Cabin Democrat | Link to article

Inuvo Inc. and PrivacyStar of Conway are close to inking out a deal to leave the city for relocation in the Little Rock River Market District.

The move was months in the making and, with Federal Plaza lease agreements up for consideration on Conway’s Main Street, the two companies are said to be acting quickly behind closed doors to finalize a Little Rock lease deal soon.

A press conference is expected Thursday at the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce that will likely outline a move into the Museum Center building at 500 President Clinton Ave., which houses the Museum of Discovery.

The 200,000-square-foot building owned by Little Rock Newspapers Inc. is divided into five levels and includes office and restaurant tenants.

The Log Cabin Democrat previously made several attempts within the past few weeks to reach Inuvo Chairman and CEO Richard Howe and PrivacyStar Chairman and CEO Charles Morgan, although phone calls and emails either went unanswered or were met with responses that the parties were unavailable for comment.

Morgan is also on the board of directors for Inuvo, and is a major shareholder with the company.

A phone call to Moses Tucker Real Estate regarding lease negotiations on Tuesday ended with a response that the real estate firm behind lease agreements for Museum Center could not comment on the matter.

Inuvo and PrivacyStar, currently situated above the Log Cabin’s newspaper offices in a two-story property leased by Nabholz Properties Inc. at 1111 Main St., began discussions last summer regarding whether to renew their lease agreement in downtown Conway.

The Log Cabin was a key player in the discussions early on, as PrivacyStar and Inuvo initially considered expanding their space to encompass more of the Federal Building, including the newspaper’s offices.

Zach Ahrens, president and publisher of Log Cabin Media, spoke with key figures at both companies regarding a possible relocation of the newspaper to another space downtown to accommodate the needs of the companies. That proposal failed earlier this year.

In July 2014, Greg Nabholz of Nabholz Properties, who initiated the lease discussion last year, approached the Log Cabin with a possible buyout of the newspaper’s lease in Suite 102 to address the PrivacyStar expansion request at the time.

“That was an expansion that required more space for their people and they ideally wanted to stay in the Federal Building, so we were looking to see if the Log Cabin would consider a relocation to allow all of these people to work alongside one another,” Ahrens said. “I believe that it was the synergy between Inuvo and PrivacyStar that they wanted to make this happen.”

During the negotiations, the Log Cabin considered two spaces downtown – Metro Square and a vacant portion of the American Management Corporation building.

“We wanted to be made whole financially in the move, as we had just moved to the Federal Building,” Ahrens said.

The Log Cabin’s seven-year lease agreement for Suite 102 of the Federal Building began April 1, 2012, between Nabholz Properties and Morris Communications Company LLC of Augusta, Ga. (d.b.a. the Log Cabin Democrat).

In October 2014, talks included subleasing conference room space from the Log Cabin. Nabholz Properties approved a short-term sublease agreement that ends this summer for Inuvo to use the space on the west side of the Federal Building.

Inuvo and PrivacyStar shifted their initial expansion plans in late 2014 with both companies eyeing a move to Little Rock, Ahrens said.

Howe and Ahrens visited on a few occasions in fall of last year in the Inuvo/PrivacyStar space.

The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce was also influential in trying to keep the two companies in Conway. Brad Lacy, chamber president and CEO, said he will not provide a full statement regarding news of a potential lease deal in Little Rock until after Thursday’s press conference.

“We have worked with them for several months to try to accommodate their need for additional space for both companies,” he said.

Among the reported reasons for moving to Little Rock are a more convenient location, a certain lack of talent in the city and limited resources for company growth.

The two companies have not expressed any possible layoffs or additional hires during the relocation process.

Combined, Inuvo and PrivacyStar have more than 100 employees.

Inuvo entered the Conway scene in 2013, when it moved its headquarters from New York City to its current Main Street location.

In April 2013, Howe told the Log Cabin that Inuvo’s headquarters in Conway offered the firm a competitive advantage as an Internet marketing company. PrivacyStar, a company dedicated to providing privacy on technology, opened its headquarters in Conway a year prior.

The move presented financial benefits to the companies in the form of assistance from the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund – $1.75 million to Inuvo and $224,000 to PrivacyStar.

Howe and Morgan also have ties to another firm, Little Rock-based Acxiom, which has an office in Conway. The two worked as chairman/CEO and chief marketing officer, respectively.