Sunday, November 19, 2017
Business

Tampa bank CEO files for bankruptcy tied to Michigan horse track deal gone bad

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Veteran Michigan banker and horse racing investor Jerry Campbell burst on the Tampa Bay financial scene nearly a decade ago, leading a Tampa bank that would become known as HomeBanc. Last month, Campbell declared personal bankruptcy, citing his inability to pay $9 million in debt.

According to a voluntary Chapter 11 petition before Judge Rodney May of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Florida, Campbell's major debt is $4.8 million owed for a loan he and co-investors borrowed in early 2009 to buy Michigan-based Pinnacle Race Track. The 320-acre track was abandoned in 2010.

Campbell's' January bankruptcy comes in the same month that demolition began on the failed $50 million horse racing track that, according to a story last week in the Detroit Free Press, represented "one of Wayne County's biggest economic development debacles of the past decade." Campbell was the founder of the track, while wife Lisa Campbell was identified as its CEO, the newspaper reported.

In court documents, Campbell's attorney, Camille Iurillo of the Florida-based Iurillo Law Group, blamed the downturn in the economy: "In hindsight, the timing for the opening of the track could not have been worse."

Personal bankruptcy by a senior Tampa banker is never a great endorsement for fiduciary responsibility. HomeBanc, where Campbell serves as chairman, CEO and president, appears to be on solid footing. The privately owned bank, with 14 offices and nearly $1 billion in assets, recently received a respected "four star" rating by Bauer Financial based on its quarterly performance as of Sept. 30, 2015.

In a 2008 interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Campbell spoke fondly of his long ties to the bay area where, he said at the time, he and wife Lisa owned a condo on Sand Key and two dozen racehorses at Tampa Bay Downs.

According to the Free Press, in Michigan the Wayne County Land Bank originally sold the 320-acre property to Campbell and other racetrack investors for a dollar. In exchange, Campbell's group promised to create or retain 1,100 construction jobs and 1,200 full-time permanent jobs or suffer financial penalties based on the estimated market value of the land, at the time $8.6 million.

The track lost millions in its first two years, and efforts to revive it as a "racino" with slot machines failed.

According to Campbell's bankruptcy filings, the couple owns two properties in Florida and three in Michigan. At HomeBanc, Campbell earned a base salary of $472,500 in 2015 from his bank and may still be eligible to receive a bonus.

Two years ago, the couple launched Team Equest, a Florida-based syndicate initiative designed to attract new owners to racing via a fractional ownership plan. The business' website, launched in March 2014, stopped posting news and updates the same year.

News reports also indicate Campbell was a lead business partner with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians in its ongoing attempt to open off-reservation Indian casinos.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected] Follow @venturetampabay.

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