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Simon Property Group sets eye on expanding outlet malls

Prime Outlets Ellenton is changing hands. Simon Property Group is buying it, and plans to build an outlet mall in Pasco.

Joseph Garnett Jr. | Times (1998)

Prime Outlets Ellenton is changing hands. Simon Property Group is buying it, and plans to build an outlet mall in Pasco.

After Simon Property Group gave up trying to buy its biggest mall-owning rival, attention shifted to its $2.3 billion purchase of Prime Retail Outlets.

The owner of Tyrone and Gulf View Square malls, Simon will land the teeming Prime Outlets Ellenton and Orlando in a deal sealing control of 77 of the nation's 217 outlet mall properties.

Antitrust regulators are still combing the deal struck seven months ago, but likely not with the same zeal as when Simon had a second offer out to grab General Growth Properties Inc., too. That $11 billion deal would have added 158 more top-tier malls to Simon's 380-mall trophy case, or a third of all the regional malls in the United States.

But it wasn't a lack of cash or regulators that put the kibosh on Simon. It became evident General Growth didn't want Simon once the management and creditors took a lower offer, said David Simon, chief executive.

Locally the Manatee County outlet would bookend Tampa Bay with Tampa Premium Outlets, a counterpart Simon has planned for years at State Road 52 and Interstate 75 in Pasco County.

The Pasco mall was supposed to open in 2008, but was put off until 2011 by the economic collapse.

The inactivity energized the rumor mill about sites closer to town. One had Sierra Properties wooing Simon's Pasco project south as part the sprawling Cypress Creek development at SR 56. Meanwhile, a Washington, D.C., developer appeared with plans for a mall-size hotel-retail development at the Florida State Fairgrounds. That harks back to a mid 1990s attempt to put an outlet mall there to feed off the tourists drawn to the Seminole Hard Rock Casino.

It's too late for Simon to open in 2011. The players will not comment on rumors or when the market might recover enough for another outlet mall.

"We are still very committed to Tampa-St. Pete and think it would be an outstanding market for our Premium Outlets concept," said Michelle Rothstein, a Simon spokeswoman. "We hope to have an announcement in the near future."

Shailendra Group, the Atlanta developer that wants to fit the Premium Outlets mall into part of 950 acres it acquired in 2002, heard the rumors.

"I cannot comment," said Ron Weaver, Shailendra's Tampa attorney. "But we do have the best site."

Two retailers chose different ways to find a new fashion face for their brands.

Talbots signed 45-year-old model-mom Linda Evangelista as the face for a fall ad campaign.

Stein Mart Inc., the Jacksonville off-price chain, is staging a contest among customers, offering $500 gift cards to those chosen as models. Stein Mart urged hopefuls to post 30- to 45-second videos on the chain's Facebook page by Friday. Winners will be invited to auditions followed by a fashion shoot in Orlando.

The Limited is no longer part of Limited Brands, the retail conglomerate that Les Wexner, the son a Columbus, Ohio, haberdasher, parlayed into one of the great retail fortunes of the late 20th century. Since 1963 Wexner made the Limited a wellspring that begot Victoria's Secret, Pink, Bath & Body Works, White Barn Candles and Henri Bendel.

Along the way Limited spawned and spun off other influential nameplates: Limited Too (now Justice), Express, Lerner New York, Cacique, Structure and a revival of once-moribund Abercrombie & Fitch.

Limited Brands unloaded its last 25 percent stake for $32 million to Sun Capital Partners, a Boca Raton investor group that took the rest for $50 million in 2007.

After turning an operating profit last year, the first since 1993, Limited had shrunk to 220 stores. Three are in bay area malls.

No word if Limited Brands will change its name.

Reach Mark Albright at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Simon Property Group sets eye on expanding outlet malls 06/21/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 2:20am]

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