Make us your home page

Times 10: New guard at Tampa Bay's public companies comes into its own

Liz Smith's top priority when she became CEO of Bloomin' Brands was to improve Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill and other chains under her watch.

Three-plus years later, she's looking beyond the business.

She believes Tampa Bay would be an attractive tech hub a la Raleigh-Durham; she's talking to the CEO Council, Junior Achievement and Academy Prep; she thinks a pedestrian-friendly city would attract younger professionals; she confers frequently with friend and former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio; she shares strategies with fellow local CEO Mindy Grossman of HSN, who sits on Bloomin' Brands board of directors.

The budding relationships have led to "a cross-fertilization of ideas and support," Smith said in an interview with the Times. "It's really important, and we're blessed with having really strong leaders here that I feel I could pick up the phone and talk to."

Smith's emergence speaks to a broader transformation within the local business community: The new guard overseeing Tampa Bay's biggest public companies is coming into its own.

The annual lineup of the Times 10 the 10 largest public companies headquartered in Tampa Bay — has remained fairly consistent in recent years. This year, the sole newcomers are Bloomin' Brands, which went public last year, and general insurer Brown & Brown.

But taken together, those businesses have had a lot of turnover at the very top. Seven of the 10 CEOs have been on the job four years or less, and two more came to town just a few years before that.

Gone are corporate mainstays Tom James of Raymond James and Steve Raymund at Tech Data, both sons of company founders. Tim Main, CEO of Jabil Circuit for 12 years, left in March, passing the baton to top lieutenant Mark Mondello.

The longest-tenured CEO left among the Times 10 is Chuck Sykes, who took over call center operator Sykes Enterprises from his father, John, in 2004.

James Austin, a longtime Harvard Business School professor and business management expert, said it's not unusual for new CEOs to experience a breaking-in period to focus on their companies, an insular focus all the more intense during hard times like the Great Recession.

But after that, he said, it would be unusual if the new leader didn't "engage significantly" with his or her community.

"Leading companies and their CEOs recognize the importance of meaningful community involvement," Austin said. "Strategic collaborations with nonprofits and governmental entities have become an integral part of intelligent management of successful businesses. Businesses need to generate economic, social and environmental value if they and their communities are to thrive."

Chris Steinocher, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, said he's noticed "a lot of new faces" in the business community — not just among the biggest public companies but other longtime businesses like coupon distributor Valpak, area banks and the Tampa Port Authority.

That change, he said, can be a very good thing. "It's probably very healthy for any organization or any community to have a shift once in a while," said Steinocher, who took the chamber job two years ago. "It does give a fresh perspective."

Steinocher said it's key during any leadership transformation to make sure the local chambers or business partnerships retain some institutional memory. That's one reason last year's Republican National Convention in Tampa came at a pivotal time, helping to unify many of the relatively new leaders in pitching Tampa Bay.

"The challenge is to make sure you don't go off in different directions" on the big picture, he said. That doesn't mean, however, that the new business leaders don't identify with specific community or economic development goals that mesh with their personal or professional priorities.

Among the local executives and their causes:

• Bloomin' Brands CEO Smith, who joined the Moffitt Cancer Center board of directors last year, is keen on health care initiatives.

• Mondello, Jabil Circuit's new CEO, has been an All Children's Hospital board member for a decade. Recently, he's forged strong bonds to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Rays.

• Alec Cunningham, WellCare Health Plans CEO since 2010, stresses volunteerism among the insurer's 3,000 local employees. Last year, company volunteers donated about 1,500 hours with nonprofits like Metropolitan Ministries; Paint Your Heart Out, Tampa!; and the American Diabetes Association.

• Grossman, the HSN chief, said she wants to cultivate an environment of creative, passionate people who "always find a way to give back, not only to our local community, but to causes that impact women and families everywhere." Employees recently volunteered more than 500 hours to build the third Habitat for Humanity home in Pinellas County through the HSN Cares program.

A couple of the more seasoned local executives in the Times 10 have been active in the community a long time.

John Ramil, even before he became TECO Energy's CEO in 2010, was already a well-known quantity here, particularly within area chambers and his alma mater, the University of South Florida. His lengthy leadership resume includes being chairman of USF's board of trustees, past chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, and director of both the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

Chuck Sykes, now the ostensible dean among local CEOs, has been a go-to figure in the business community for everything from studying financing for a new professional baseball stadium to raising money for the American Heart Association. He also had an elongated stint as chairman of the Greater Tampa Chamber and is current chairman of the Tampa Bay Partnership.

To Bloomin' Brands' Smith, that breadth of new and old executive talent adds up to an opportunity waiting to be embraced.

"We have some of the finest business leaders around in our back yard," she said.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at (727) 893-8242 or


IN: Bloomin' Brands (after going public) and Brown & Brown (because of a revenue increase).

OUT: Lincare Holdings (after going private in a buyout) and Kforce Inc. (which fell to No. 11 on the list).

BIGGEST JUMP: WellCare Health Plans remains a solid No. 3. But with a 21 percent jump in revenues in one year, it is starting to break away from the middle of the pack behind the long-time top two, Tech Data and Jabil Circuit.

BIGGEST DROP: TECO Energy fell three spots.

BEST PAID CEO: Bloomin' Brands CEO

Liz Smith in a landslide, with $24.5 million

in compensation, including $22.4 million tied to

taking the company public.


Powell Brown saw his compensation drop by 39 percent to $1.97 million, which also made him

the lowest-paid of the top 10.

BIGGEST PAYROLL: With a global workforce of 175,000, Jabil has nearly twice as many employees as any other public company here. Next up: Bloomin' Brands (91,000) and Sykes Enterprises (46,200).

MIXED FINANCIALS: Three of the 10

posted smaller revenues, and four rang up smaller profits.

MISSING THE CUT: In addition to Kforce, Quality Distribution, fast-rising Walter Investment Management and MarineMax are in the next tier.

Times 10 CEOs on Tampa Bay's economy

“Tampa Bay's economy is heading in the right direction. … My biggest concerns are unemployment and the overall strength of the labor market because they impact so many factors of the economic recovery. Without adequate-paying jobs, people can't pay their mortgages or move into larger homes, which in turn hampers the housing recovery."

Paul Reilly, Raymond James Financial


"(Housing) inventories have dropped. Prices have stabilized and, in some price ranges, have increased, which is great for the community. Unemployment has also stabilized and is going down. … The other part of this is the stock market has run up, and I think there's a bit of a disconnect between the rise of the market and true economic recovery. … How much of this is driven by the artificial stimulus the government has (with the Federal Reserve) putting $85 billion a month into bonds and securities? As a company, we're being very cautious."

Mark Mondello,

Jabil Circuit


"We can get into economic indicators. We're all seeing the same things. But most important is frame of mind. … I feel like the folks in Tampa Bay are feeling good about where they are, good about the economy. … We all have to acknowledge that volatility is the new normal. That was a reality that was just settling in, in 2009. We were all kind of getting our sea legs with the fact we were going to be in more volatile times. As everyone has settled in and understood how to operate in this environment, you've seen this overall optimism return."

Liz Smith,

Bloomin' Brands


"WellCare's growth has been fueled by several factors: states that are increasingly moving to managed care solutions for their Medicaid low-income populations, the increasing number of baby boomers who are aging into Medicare, and strategic acquisitions. So what does all of that mean for the Tampa Bay economy? Our Tampa team serves all of our programs nationwide, so as our business grows across the country, our operations in Tampa expand. Of our approximately 5,100 employees, nearly 3,000 are here in Tampa. That number has increased by about 12 percent since the beginning of the year. … In short, as we grow …Tampa benefits."

Alec Cunningham, WellCare Health Plans


CEO: Robert Dutkowsky • $25.4 billion in revenue


CEO: Mark Mondello • $17.2 billion


CEO: Alexander Cunningham • $7.4 billion


CEO: Liz Smith • $4 billion


CEO: Paul C. Reilly • $3.8 billion


CEO: Mindy Grossman • $3.3 billion


CEO: John B. Ramil • $2.99 billion


CEO: Jerry Fowden • $2.25 billion


CEO: Charles "Chuck" Sykes • $1.13 billion


CEO: J. Powell Brown • $1.2 billion


Times 10: New guard at Tampa Bay's public companies comes into its own 06/29/13 [Last modified: Saturday, June 29, 2013 6:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Reload your SunPass account. Roadway tolls return Thursday.

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida residents will no longer get a free pass traversing most stretches of the Florida Turnpike or certain local expressways across the state.

    With a push by the Florida Turpike to encourage more drivers traveling the Veterans and Suncoast Parkway to buy a Sunpass, motorists will begin to see more lanes converted to handle Sunpass. [Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Tampa Heights project gets $21.5 million in funding

    Real Estate

    TAMPA --- The Tampa-based Heights Community Development District got a financial boost from a $21.5 million tax-exempt bond issue to fund the waterfront community being built along the Hillsborough River just north of downtown Tampa. Proceeds from the bond issue are expected to used for new roads, sidewalks, the Tampa …

    Tampa's Heights Community Development District got a financial boost from a $21.5 million tax-exempt bond issue to fund the waterfront community being built along the Hillsborough River just north of downtown Tampa.
[Courtesy of Aerial Innovations, Inc.]
  3. Grocery chain Aldi hiring for 500 positions across Florida


    Aldi, the German grocery store chain, is hiring for 500 positions across Florida, including at its locations in Tampa Bay. The company will hold a "one-day hiring spree" Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at all Aldi stores in the state, a Tuesday release said.

    Aldi, a German grocery store chain, is hiring for 500 positions across the state. | [Times file photo]
  4. Irma's death toll in Florida rises to 42, but will grow


    TALLAHASSEE —Deadly carbon monoxide fumes have killed 11 people in Florida as Hurricane Irma's death toll rose to 42 on Tuesday, state officials reported.

    A resident walks by a pile of debris caused by a storm surge during Hurricane Irma in Everglades City. The isolated Everglades City community of about 400 people suffered some of Florida's worst storm surges, up to 9 feet (2.7 meters), when Hurricane Irma slammed the region eight days ago, leaving the insides of homes a sodden mess and caking the streets with mud. The storm affected nearly every part of the state, and, so far, the death toll stands at 42. [AP Photo | Alan Diaz]
  5. After Irma, Tampa Bay synagogues get ready for Rosh Hashana


    As the holiest days of the Jewish calendar approached, so did Hurricane Irma.

    Congregants open the ark which holds several torah scrolls during Selichot services at Congregation B'nai Israel of St. Petersburg on Saturday, September 16, 2017. The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana begins at sundown on Wednesday night.