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The Biz: Ripken steps to the plate in ownership role

Robert S. Scott gets an autograph from Cal Ripken during his visit the Charlotte County Sports Park after Ripken announced his purchase of the Tampa Bay Rays’ Vero Beach affiliate, which he will move to Port Charlotte.

Fort Myers New-Press

Robert S. Scott gets an autograph from Cal Ripken during his visit the Charlotte County Sports Park after Ripken announced his purchase of the Tampa Bay Rays’ Vero Beach affiliate, which he will move to Port Charlotte.

In baseball, he was the Iron Man. In the business of baseball, Cal Ripken Jr. may become the Money Man. Last week, Hall of Famer Ripken — now president and CEO of Ripken Baseball — announced the purchase of the Tampa Bay Rays' Vero Beach affiliate in the Florida State League. He will move the team to Port Charlotte, the Rays' new spring training site starting in February.

This is not new turf for Ripken, the former Baltimore Orioles shortstop. In February 2002, Ripken, co-owner and brother Bill Ripken and their Ripken Professional Baseball purchased the Utica Blue Sox of the New York-Penn League for about $3-million, renamed it the Aberdeen IronBirds and moved the team to his hometown of Aberdeen, Md. The team is the seventh Baltimore Orioles minor league affiliate. More recently, they added Georgia's Augusta GreenJackets.

"We're not in it for the short term," Ripken said last week in announcing the Rays' minor league deal. "We're in for the long term, so we're looking forward to that."

Community support is key to the success of any minor league team in any sport. Ripken knows his name carries a lot of weight, so the folks in Charlotte County shouldn't be surprised to see Ripken around town.

"Whatever it takes," Ripken told the Fort Myers News-Press. "Occasionally you'll need a promotional tool, and that's me."

Bank boss' exit spurs buyout talk

Here's a rare one: A Greek-philosophy-spewing bank CEO is calling it a day. John Allison, 60 and chief of North Carolina's BB&T, last week said he will retire as CEO at the end of this year after 37 years. He will remain as chairman until next year.

Allison hit Tampa Bay's radar in 2003 when BB&T purchased St. Petersburg's Republic Bank. At the time, BB&T made a big deal of the Renaissance-thinking, Aristotle-quoting qualities of CEO Allison and his penning a 30-page essay for employees of such high-minded values as productivity and fairness that became known as "The BB&T Philosophy." The bank even reproduced it in a pamphlet that was handed to each Republic employee as required reading once the BB&T purchase was completed.

As CEO, Allison will be succeeded by Kelly King, and analysts immediately insisted began speculating BB&T is — or is not — ripe to be acquired. Management changes could lead to a merger, suggests a report by Ladenburg Thalmann analyst Richard Bove of Lutz. Most likely suitor? Fifth Third Bancorp, Bove wrote in a report issued Thursday.

Au contraire, states Stifel Nicolaus & Co. analyst Christopher Mutascio. "Given Mr. Allison's 37-year career at BB&T, we believe that if the company was a near-term seller, it would come under his watch as CEO, not soon after he steps down," he said.

So far, BB&T is faring better than some of its regional competition in a harsh economy. SunTrust usually boasts blue chip status but was slapped with a "sell" rating last week by a Citigroup analyst, who cited BB&T as a bank in superior condition.

Shipping future fills mayor with a wave of pride

Last week, Tampa port officials predicted their fledgling container shipping business would triple over the next three years. And Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio took special note, to say the least. When she first ran for office in 2003, she recalled, the port moved only 3,000 containers. Reaching an anticipated 125,000 such containers, she said, would "represent the single greatest aspect of economic development in our county," she said.

Wow. Greater economic development than USF's expansion and business collaborations? The arrival of Merck or Draper Labs or DTCC? The expansions at TIA? Maybe she's on to something.

Times staff writer

The Biz: Ripken steps to the plate in ownership role 08/31/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 2:40pm]
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