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Game Changer: How Billionaire Jeff Vinik is Helping to Remake Tampa

Before he decamped to Tampa to run a sports team, Jeff Vinik made billions for investors. Now he’s spending billions remaking his adopted hometown.

Vinik says he’s using the area as a “blank canvas” to rebuild a development that is uniquely Tampa. It’s an ambitious effort for a city that hasn’t built an office tower in 24 years. Vinik says he originally had “no plan to build half a city in downtown Tampa” and that the idea evolved over time with the nationwide trend of movement back to urban cores. The goal is to now create an “ecosystem” that will attract millennials from outside the region with high-paying jobs that can spark further economic growth.

While cities frequently unveil ambitious projects, they often fall apart due to lack of funding or will. With the backing of Vinik and Cascade Investment, those two elements are already secured.

“It just comes down to passion. As you get older, you do what you want to do, right?” Vinik says. “There’s just an incredible opportunity to build a vibrant, walkable, amenity-rich,
mixed-use development here. We can really make a difference.”

Fund Manager to Sports Team Owner
The married father of four took an unlikely path to the role of real estate developer. In the early and mid-’90s, he managed the Fidelity Magellan Fund, then the world’s largest mutual
fund with more than $56 billion in assets in 4.4 million accounts. He stepped down in 1996 and later started his own hedge fund, Vinik Asset Management, to serve select institutional
and private clients.

“It just comes down to passion. As you get older, you do what you want to do, right?”

Vinik came to Tampa in 2010 when he purchased the Tampa Bay Lightning for a price tag that ESPN estimated at $170 million. There were nearly 10 teams for sale at the time, but Vinik picked Tampa for what he saw as “underappreciated” potential.

The purchase raised some eyebrows, with some speculating it was just a financial investment for the out-of-state multimillionaire. Vinik, however, says his foray into sports was “for fun” and that he had a long-term commitment to the community. “It’s just really underappreciated and undervalued.

I really thought there was an opportunity for myself and my family here, in conjunction with the community, to hopefully make this an even better place and better city,” he explains.
Seven years later, it’s hard to dispute his intentions. Lightning fans and management credit him with turning around the team’s performance and profitability. When he took ownership, he immediately cleaned house and brought in Detroit Red Wings legend Steve Yzerman as GM. He also invested $71 million of his own money in Amalie Arena, making it one of the most state-of-theart arenas in the nation.

The team went from having one of the worst records in the NHL to making the playoffs the past three seasons. readers voted the Lightning at the top of its Ultimate Standings 2016, which ranked 122 professional sports teams on things like ownership, coaching, players, affordability and stadium experience.

As the sole owner of the team, Vinik doesn’t have to worry about other interests or partners. He manages his current projects the same way he’s managed billions of dollars for investors, perhaps just with a bit more passion and personal interest. Vinik didn’t retire when he left the fund industry, he started a whole new career.


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