Jamal Thalji, Times Staff Writer

Jamal Thalji

Jamal Thalji has spent 18 years covering crime, courts, sports and now the business beat for the Tampa Bay Times.

He was raised in the Tampa Bay area, attended Osceola High School and is a graduate of the University of South Florida in Tampa. He worked for the Times while he was in college and later interned at the Des Moines Register.

After five years covering criminal and civil court in Pasco County for the Times, in 2008 he became metro police reporter for the city of St. Petersburg.

In June 2012 he joined the Times business staff and now covers Tampa International Airport, the Port of Tampa and Tampa Bay's tourism industry.

Along the way he has also covered NASA, the NFL, the NBA, college football, hurricanes, forest fires, space shuttle launches, criminal trials and lots of high school football.

Phone: (813) 226-3404

Email: thalji@tampabay.com

Twitter: @JThalji

  1. Liberty challenges Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's winning Channelside bid


    TAMPA — Liberty Channelside LLC continued its court battle for Channelside Bay Plaza on Tuesday, accusing the top players in last week's auction of colluding to hand the plaza over to the winning bidder, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

    Liberty is trying to scuttle Vinik's winning bid while also proposing a new deal to the judge overseeing the Channelside auction: Liberty offered $10 million for the fading downtown Tampa mall....

    Liberty Channelside LLC has accused the top players in last week’s auction of colluding to hand Channelside Bay Plaza over to the winning bidder, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.
  2. Cruise ship study lays out costly options for Tampa Bay


    TAMPA — The cruise ships that sail up and down Tampa Bay generate more than $380 million in annual economic activity for the area and help support up to 2,000 jobs.

    But saving that industry from extinction could cost hundreds of millions — and maybe even a billion or two — in local, state and federal tax dollars, a state study estimates.

    The question Tampa Bay leaders must ask themselves in the coming years: Are cruise ships worth it?...

    Despite what should be a record year for the cruise industry in Tampa, there is trouble on the horizon as cruise lines rely on bigger ships that face impenetrable obstacles in the Sunshine Skyway, a small turning basin and a narrow shipping channel.
  3. Vinik wins Channelside auction but faces court battle


    Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik was the winning bidder in Wednesday's auction for Channelside Bay Plaza.

    He was also the only real bidder.

    According to court records, the winning bid of $7.1 million was made by CBP Development LLC, the new venture Vinik formed to acquire, revive and run Channelside.

    Vinik bid on the Channelside building, while the Tampa Port Authority bid $3.5 million for the mortgage on the building. Bidders had the choice of bidding on either asset, or both....

    Jeff Vinik signed a $10 million letter to prove he can fund the repairs.
  4. Channelside auction might not be won by highest bidder


    TAMPA — It will take more than a big, fat check to win Channelside Bay Plaza in today's auction.

    The winning bidder will also have to prove it has the best shot of succeeding as Channelside's new owner.

    In bankruptcy law, the concept is called "adequate assurance of future performance." It will play a key role in determining who will control Channelside.

    The auction will start at 10 a.m. at a New York law firm. Three parties will bid against one another: Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's group CBP Development LLC, which unveiled its grand plans for Channelside on Monday; Liberty Channelside LLC investors Santosh Govindaraju and Punit Shah, who tried to buy it last year and have since been in litigation; and the Tampa Port Authority, which wants to choose the complex's savior....

    Jeff Vinik’s CBP Development presented its “Channelside Live” plans Monday.
  5. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is back in Channelside Bay Plaza race


    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik just jumped back into the race to control Channelside Bay Plaza.

    The owner of the Lightning controls CBP Development LLC, which according to court records has the highest starting bid for Channelside in the auction coming on Wednesday.

    CBP bid $7.1 million, records show. That is now the highest offer on record for downtown Tampa's dilapidated outdoor mall....

    Jeff Vinik controls CBP Development LLC, which has started with an offer of $7.1 million in an auction that seeks the “best bid.”
  6. Channelside Bay Plaza to be renovated by best bidder


    TAMPA — The highest bidder might not be the winner in Wednesday's auction for Channelside Bay Plaza.

    The "best bid" will win the day, according to the auction rules.

    The "best" bidder must also prove they have the money and means to rehabilitate the long-suffering outdoor mall. And it would help to have the blessing of the Tampa Port Authority, which has a say over who can buy it....

    Channelside Bay Plaza will be renovated by the winner of an auction.
  7. Hillsborough GOP activist Sam Rashid named to aviation board


    TAMPA — Sam Rashid, one of the most active and influential Republican activists in Hillsborough County, received an appointment to the Hillsborough County Aviation board from Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday.

    The board oversees Tampa International Airport. But Rashid says he will focus on upholding the legacy of the former chairman of the board, Steve Burton, who died at 52 in April 2013....

    Sam Rashid was last on a public board a decade ago.
  8. Edelweiss flights to and from TIA are successful, company says


    TAMPA — It has been two years and one month since Edelweiss Air started nonstop flights from Zurich to Tampa International Airport and back. It was Tampa's first direct flight to continental Europe in 15 years.

    So how have things been going for Edelweiss in Tampa so far?

    "Satisfactory," said a grinning Michael Trestl, the airline's director of strategy and network development, after a Tuesday evening news conference at TIA....

  9. Public may get preview of bidders in next week's Channelside auction


    TAMPA — The public may get an early glimpse at just who's bidding for Channelside Bay Plaza before it goes up for auction next week.

    The Tampa Port Authority announced Monday that it will hold a special board meeting on June 30 at 3 p.m. that "may include presentations from prospective bidders" for Channelside.

    That meeting would take place just two days before the July 2 auction for Channelside, which will be held in New York....

  10. Irish bank that owns Channelside Bay Plaza ready to abandon it


    TAMPA — A few days ago, the folks running the auction for Channelside Bay Plaza released 1,027 pages explaining the complicated rules for selling the most complicated piece of real estate in Tampa Bay.

    But tucked inside is an escape hatch for the Irish bank that has failed to unload downtown Tampa's beleaguered outdoor mall: If it isn't sold this time, then the Irish Bank Resolution Corp. asked a judge to let it walk away from Channelside once and for all....

    The Irish Bank Resolution Corp. says the failed and deteriorating Channelside complex is no longer worth its time and trouble.
  11. Tampa Port Authority votes to enter auction to buy Channelside

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — The Tampa Port Authority voted Tuesday to enter the Channelside Bay Plaza auction and try to buy the failing downtown icon once again.

    The port's governing board also signaled that it is willing to pay more than the $5.75 million that it offered for the complex last year.

    It's the latest move in the port's nine-month quest to take control of downtown Tampa's outdoor mall. The complex's uncertain ownership has left it nearly empty and struggling to attract businesses and customers....

    The Tampa Port Authority voted Tuesday to enter the auction for Channelside Bay Plaza. [SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times (2013)]
  12. Fate of Channelside retail complex could be delayed by latest legal battle


    TAMPA — The auction to buy Channelside Bay Plaza is on, and a winner could be declared as soon as Tuesday.

    But, no surprise, the validity of the auction has now become the next legal battleground for control of the downtown retail complex.

    The auction was ordered weeks ago by the Delaware bankruptcy judge overseeing Channelside, which is a distressed asset of the Irish Bank Resolution Corp....

    Though the winning bid for Channelside may be announced next week, approval will likely take place at a July 15 hearing.
  13. All signs point to a booming summer for Pinellas beaches


    The forecast for the Pinellas beaches this summer:


    Pinellas County is in the midst of a third consecutive year of record tourism numbers, and there's no sign that might let up this summer. The county's tourism agency, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, reports a massive amount of digital interest in the Pinellas beaches as a summer destination.

    "Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram," said David Downing, the agency's deputy director. "They're giving us a lot of metrics and these metrics can really help give you an idea of where people are coming from and who is coming."...

    The TradeWinds Island Grand Resort reports that nearly all of its 796 rooms have been booked in June and July.
  14. Hillsborough, Pasco largely spared from Scott vetoes


    Gov. Rick Scott's veto pen mostly spared Hillsborough County on Monday, sending millions to local projects big and small, while leaving people behind the few projects Scott did veto wondering what they did wrong. The big winners included Tampa International Airport, Port Tampa Bay, and the University of South Florida.

    The new state budget includes $194 million for the biggest infrastructure project in the region: the expansion of TIA....

  15. Water salute for Japan Airlines Dreamliner goes awry at Tampa International Airport (w/video)


    TAMPA — Well, it was a nice gesture.

    The execution, however, was definitely lacking when a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner taxied toward the Tampa International Airport terminal on Thursday evening.

    Two airport fire trucks were stationed on each side of the plane. Firefighters used cannons to shoot water into the air, creating a liquid archway that the aircraft taxied through. It's a ceremony TIA and other airports use to honor special airplanes and special occasions....

    A Japan Airlines Boeing 787 jet aircraft is inspected at Logan International Airport in Boston. Tampa International Airport welcomed its first Dreamliner with a water arch salute Thursday, but the ceremony went awry.