Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Business

Clearwater man sued after alleging Jeff Vinik was a business partner

In the startup world, landing a big fish investor can go a long way toward bringing in other funding, and in Tampa Bay, the biggest fish of all may be Tampa Bay Lightning owner and frequent investor Jeff Vinik.

So when Clearwater resident Chris Giotakis sought a loan from a Nahakama Inc. and assured them that Vinik was set to back his new venture with $60 million and be his partner, it went a long way.

Except Vinik says he wasn't on board. And he has no idea what Giotakis' Liquid Bay Capital company is.

"He doesn't know Chris Giotakis and has never conducted business with him," Bill Wickett, a spokesperson for Vinik, said in an email.

Now Nahakama, a St. Petersburg-based company, is suing Giotakis over the $400,000 loan it gave him for what was supposed to be a trading platform. According to the lawsuit, Giotakis assured Nahakama that he and his business partner, Michael Avina, pulled together $600 million from investors who would disperse the money over a year.

And it wasn't just investor money they were handling. Avina and Giotakis said they were also putting up $2 million of their own money toward the company, as well as Giotakis' 55-foot boat as collateral.

It wasn't supposed to be a high-risk loan. Giotakis, the lawsuit said, assured Nahakama that it would see a return on its investment within three months.

But those promises fell short. What Giotakis didn't disclose at the outset was that his home was in foreclosure at the time. According to the new lawsuit, Giotakis has only paid back $60,000 of the Nahakama loan as of April 3.

What's more, according to public records, Giotakis might be 20 feet short on his boat promise as well — he currently owns a 35-foot boat named "In Stead of Kids."

Giotakis did not return calls for this article.

This isn't Giotakis' first spin with business-related debt. In 2014, he filed for bankruptcy, listing about $800,000 in business debt. His case was terminated a year later. It's unclear of outstanding obligations from that filing, but at least one person contacted for this article said a debt of $100,000 remains.

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