Make us your home page

Entrepreneur John Sykes takes CEO spot at GunnAllen

Serial entrepreneur and philanthropist John Sykes has big dreams of transforming Tampa's GunnAllen Financial brokerage firm, which he recently bought with some fellow investors, and Tampa's NorthStar Bank, where he is also an investor and director, into a junior version of Raymond James Financial. To make that happen, Sykes — the founder of Tampa's Sykes Enterprises — picked his right-hand man of many years, 59-year-old Gordon Loetz, to lead the corporate charge as GunnAllen CEO in November.

But Loetz drowned in late March in an accident in heavy seas off Puerto Rico while trying to save his wife who was trapped in the capsized boat. She survived but Loetz, described by Sykes as his personal financial adviser and "like a son to me," did not.

Now the 72-year-old Sykes, GunnAllen's current chairman and the private company's single largest shareholder, is taking Loetz's spot as CEO. Sykes first met last spring with Gunn­Allen co-founder Rick Frueh at SideBern's in south Tampa to discuss a possible deal. Earlier this month, Frueh stepped down as GunnAllen president.

"The firm will continue and we are committed to seeing Gordie's vision for the firm fulfilled," Sykes said in a statement.

It's not the first time Sykes has stepped back to run one of his companies in need. In 2000, David Grimes was named CEO of Sykes Enterprises, as John Sykes prepared to retire. Grimes left four months later, prompting Sykes' return. Sykes Enterprises is now run by John Sykes' son, Chuck Sykes.


Infamous 1980s' savings and loan banker Michael Wise took his own life earlier this month by leaping from the ninth floor of a parking garage at Tampa International Airport. I won't second guess what trouble Wise, 64, was wrestling with, but he had a lot of history from which to choose.

Wise ran Silverado Savings & Loan in Denver in the 1980s, and recruited Neil Bush — son of then-President George H.W. Bush and also brother of Jeb Bush, who later served two terms as Florida's governor — to join the board of directors. Silverado failed amid allegations of fraud and eventually cost the federal government $1 billion.

Wise, a Republican fundraiser who helped raise $300,000 for then-President Bush, was acquitted by a jury in the matter only to later plead guilty to misleading wealthy investors in Aspen in what was called a Ponzi scheme — an increasingly popular fraud that Florida seems to attract. He used investor proceeds to pay off earlier investors and support his lifestyle.

Wise served three-plus years in prison before ending up in the Tampa Bay area in the mortgage business during the recent housing boom. That gig withered after complaints from customers and after his background was made public here. A hard end to a troubled life.


What do Florida's small business owners and homeowners have in common? Declining prices and so-so demand. If you want to buy a business in Tampa, the current average asking price is about $199,000. A year ago, the average asking price for businesses was $225,000.

The latest numbers are based on 938 area businesses listed at

Robert Trigaux can be reached at

Entrepreneur John Sykes takes CEO spot at GunnAllen 04/15/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 15, 2009 9:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Appointments at the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA and the Straz Center highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers



    The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA has named Matt Mitchell its new chief executive officer, effective Oct. 16. Selected by the Y's CEO Search Committee following a five-month search, Mitchell will succeed Tom Looby, who is retiring. Looby has served the Y Movement for 37 years, the past 10 …

    The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA has named Matt Mitchell as its new Chief Executive Officer. [Handout photo]
  2. Rep. Larry Ahern gets roughed up by Clearwater City Council

    State Roundup

    It seemed innocuous enough: an "end of session report" from state Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, to the Clearwater City Council.

    Then Ahern got taken to the woodshed.

    Rep. Larry Ahern is vying for a seat on the Pinellas commission.
  3. There's a bar in Tampa where you can roller skate and eat sushi

    Food & Dining

    Roller skating, it's not just for kids birthday parties and the 1970s anymore.

    The exterior of Pattinis features this mural by Art Aliens! [Pattinis South Tampa via Facebook]
  4. Lockdown: Florida's 97,000 prison inmates confined through weekend

    State Roundup

    All of Florida's 97,000 state prison inmates are on lockdown — and will remain confined to their dorms at least through the weekend — in response to unspecified threats about possible uprisings, officials from the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday.

    Blackwater River Correctional Facility. [Florida Department of Corrections]
  5. Carnival announces five more cruises from Tampa to Cuba


    TAMPA — Carnival Cruise Line is adding five more cruises from Tampa to Cuba in 2018, Port Tampa Bay announced Thursday.

      Carnival Cruise Line announced additional cruises to  Cuba. Pictured is its Paradise cruise ship departing on its inaugural voyage to Cuba from Tampa. | [MONICA HERNDON | Times]