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Is John Travolta moving to Clearwater? Property records offer hints

By Tracey McManus
This waterfront home in Clearwater, was purchased for $3 million by the Hawker Investment Trust. One of the people named in the trust, Ellen Bannon, is the sister of actor and noted Scientologist John Travolta. The home, overlooking Clearwater Harbor, is a mile from Scientology's international spiritual headquarters in downtown and next door to a home owned by actor and Scientologist Kirstie Alley. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times

CLEARWATER —Is John Travolta, one of Scientology's most celebrated members, inching closer to his religion's international base in Clearwater?

Well, we don't know for sure. But there are solid connections in real estate records.

On July 10, a waterfront home in the Old Clearwater Bay neighborhood sold for $3 million to an investment trust held by Ellen Bannon, the actor's sister.

Bannon's investment trust is also listed as the owner of Travolta's eight-bedroom mansion in Ocala with two airplane hangars, a tennis court and horse barn, according to property records.

The 6,162-square-foot pad overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway sits directly next door to two houses owned by actor and Scientologist Kirstie Alley. The block on N Osceola Avenue is about a mile walk to Scientology's international spiritual headquarters downtown.

And Travolta has spent time in the city recently, most notably in April, when he highlighted an invitation-only event at the Fort Harrison Hotel about Scientology leader David Miscavige's now-rescinded retail development plan.

About 70 parishioners, business and property owners, and downtown stakeholders mingled with Travolta, Kelly Preston, Alley and pianist Chick Corea on the rooftop patio of the historic hotel before Miscavige's presentation.

Miscavige described his plan to bankroll a facade overhaul of buildings along Cleveland Street, recruit high-end retail to empty storefronts, and build an entertainment complex with actor Tom Cruise, but hinged the offer on the church's ability to buy a vacant 1.4-acre downtown lot for its campus. When the City Council voted one week later to buy that vacant lot, Miscavige pulled the retail offer and cut communication with government officials.

And Cruise, lauded as an international advocate for Scientology, has more reported residential ties to downtown.

In September, developers of the 10-story SkyView condo tower at Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue revised original building plans mid-construction to turn the top three floors into a lavish penthouse with a gym, theater, pool, garden, game room, car elevator and a flight simulator.

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Skyview developer Moises Agami said Thursday the project should be completed this fall but declined to comment on whether Cruise purchased the penthouse. But both City Manager Bill Horne and Mayor George Cretekos have said they understood the penthouse was being prepared for Cruise.

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After Tony Ortega, who runs a blog critical of Scientology, reported Cruise's alleged interest in the SkyView's penthouse last year, the story was picked up worldwide from the New York Post to the British Daily Mail.

Travolta, Bannon and the Jacksonville-based attorney representing the investment trust could not be reached for comment to confirm the actor's connection to the N Osecola Avenue home's purchase.

But Silke Peens, who owned the home since 2009 before selling to the investment trust, has a connection as well.

Peens' current address listed on the deed is 6331 Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles: the Church of Scientology International.

Times senior researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.