Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Man who claims he'll buy, restore Biltmore has questionable past

BELLEAIR — This weekend, Thomas Gavin was anything but shy.

He fired off an e-mail to Belleair Mayor Gary Katica in which he introduced himself as the "next and final owner" of the Belleview Biltmore.

He boasted that he had enough money to purchase and restore the historic hotel and golf course.

And he requested a phone meeting with Katica, and the mayor and town manager made it happen Monday morning.

But now that Gavin's name has surfaced as a possible buyer of the Biltmore, he seems to have retreated out of the spotlight.

The callback number he typed in the message to Katica goes to voice mail. Messages to the same e-mail address he used to solicit the mayor barely elicit a response.

"I am ready, willing and able to proceed with the purchase," he said in an e-mail late Tuesday to a St. Petersburg Times reporter. "I will get back to you shortly."

• • •

Gavin's life story is full of questions and gaps.

It's not clear where he lives. He has numbers and addresses in Chicago, Killeen, Texas, Hollywood, Fla., and Pinellas County.

He told town officials he was in Chicago, but called them from a Broward County telephone number.

He said he was the chairman of Lifestone Capital Corp., but the state has no record of the company and there is no website.

During the Monday morning call with Katica and Town Manager Micah Maxwell, Gavin said construction runs in his blood.

"He mentioned that his family was in construction for a number of years," Maxwell said Tuesday. "He didn't specifically say the name of the construction company."

It was one of several omissions during the 15-minute call.

Maxwell said Gavin didn't talk about his portfolio of previous projects or discuss how he planned to pay for the Biltmore's restoration.

Maxwell and Katica didn't press him.

"It was a lot of him introducing himself," Maxwell said. "He said he was intending on buying a house in the area."

If town officials had probed Gavin, this is what they would have learned:

• He filed for bankruptcy in the early 1980s.

• He has ties to a couple of Broward County development and home design companies that have been subjects of lawsuits and liens as recently as 2008.

• He is connected to a religious organization called the Christian Millenium Group Inc. and is listed as a pastor. The group is listed as inactive in Florida corporation records and has a Pinellas County phone number but a Chicago Heights, Ill., mailing address.

Miami investor Daniel Ades, another prospective buyer, said he wasn't fazed by Gavin's promises to officials.

"We're under contract and we're doing our due diligence," Ades said. "If we decide to go forward, we have the right to go forward."

Asked if Gavin's claims about signing a contract this week were true, Joe Penner, spokesman for the owner, Latitude Management Real Estate Investors, said he couldn't comment yet.

The mortgage holder, Urdang & Associates, was just as mum.

"Our policy is to not comment on these matters and unfortunately, that's all I can say," Vincent Sanfillippo said. "If and when I can (comment), I will."

Katica said he's wary about Gavin's commitment to being a good neighbor and protecting the hotel and golf course.

"I hope that it's legit because it's everything we want," Katica said. "Until I see boots on the ground and a signed contract, it means bubkes."

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report.

Man who claims he'll buy, restore Biltmore has questionable past 10/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 26, 2010 7:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Buccaneers defense was among NFL's best when its pressure got to the QB

    Bucs

    It doesn't matter how many times they've thrown a football. It doesn't matter how many seasons they've played. It doesn't matter whether they have a degree from Harvard or Central Florida.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy recorded 6.5 sacks last season, but many of his other contributions didn't show up in the box scores. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]

  2. What you need to know for Thursday, June 29

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    See that thing in the water? No? That's the point. It's that time of the year when stingrays are often lurking in the sand, often not visibly. Remember to do the stingray shuffle if you're out at the beach this weekend. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]
  3. Pinellas beaches seeing fewer injuries from stingrays, but the summer is still young

    Environment

    FORT DE SOTO — Rebecca Glidden leaned back in her lifeguard chair, watching behind sunglasses as families splashed in the water at Fort De Soto's North Beach.

    A Clearwater water safety supervisor demonstrates the stingray shuffle. Pinellas beaches are reporting relatively few injuries from stingrays so far this year, but they anticipate more as the summer wears on. Officials are reminding beachgoers to do the shuffle when they enter the water and keep an eye out for purple flags flying from the lifeguard towers, which indicate stingray activity. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  4. Weeki Wachee River advocates agree to work to resolve issues

    Local Government

    WEEKI WACHEE — Degradation of the Weeki Wachee River is a complex mix of circumstances, with a variety of jurisdictions holding the authority to fix the problems. That has made finding solutions over the years more about frustration than success.

    A boat and kayak drift into one another as they share the narrow passage near Rogers Park on the Weeki Wachee River in March. Advocates fear too many vessels are damaging the river.
  5. Despite change in Cuba policy, cruise ships sail on

    Tourism

    TAMPA -- It's smooth sailing for cruises from Tampa to Havana, with the first of Carnival Cruise Line's 12 such excursions launching today, two months after Royal Caribbean's initial voyage from Port Tampa Bay to the island.

    The Empress of the Seas cruise ship docks at the Port Tampa Bay Cruise Terminal 3 in Tampa. President Donald 

Trump's new Cuba policy may not hurt cruises to Havana at all. In fact, it may help these cruises. CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times