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. After setting tourism records, Pinellas tourism chief D.T. Minich leaving for Kissimmee job


    CLEARWATER — D.T. Minich spent seven years modernizing and honing Pinellas County's tourism efforts. He also helped the industry rebound from recession and the 2010 BP oil spill to attract a record numbers of visitors and bed tax dollars to the county.

    But now he's moving on. Minich, the CEO and executive director of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater (VSPC) – Pinellas County's convention and visitors bureau – will leave next month to take the same position with Experience Kissimmee, the tourism arm of Osceola County....

    Minich listens to a research and statistics presentation for Visit St. Pete/Clearwater in this file photo.
  2. Vinik starts master-planning a master plan for Channelside

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik does not have a secret plan.

    The Tampa Bay Lightning owner doesn't have new designs ready to go for his latest downtown acquisition, Channelside Bay Plaza. He doesn't have a grand plan to tie Channelside and his 24 acres of undeveloped land together with his crown jewel, the Tampa Bay Times Forum, into one massive development in the Channel District.

    But he soon will....

    Jeff Vinik owns 24 acres near the Times Forum.
  3. Hotel executive calls out Tampa's 'deplorable, embarrassing' taxicabs


    TAMPA — Hotel developer Lou Plasencia flies all over the nation from Tampa International Airport. When he steps into a taxi, that's one of his first impressions of the city he's visiting.

    "When I hail a cab in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago," he said "it's a positive experience."

    Then there are the taxis at his hometown airport.

    "It is the most deplorable, embarrassing experience," Plasencia said, "to have a guest sit in that pigsty."...

    Tampa International Airport routinely inspects the cleanliness and service of the taxis and their drivers who operate at TIA, an airport official says.
  4. Hillsborough hotel market on track for pre-recession highs


    TAMPA — The Hillsborough County lodging industry appears to be headed for a record year in 2014.

    That was the word from analysts at the Hillsborough County Hotel Motel Association's 15th annual trends and forecasting forum Thursday, when local hospitality executives got a look at the latest data for the Tampa-Hillsborough market.

    The entire Tampa Bay region is doing well, said Vail Brown, vice president of global business development and marketing at hotel research firm STR. But she said the Tampa-Hillsborough market is doing even better....

    Santiago Corrada, CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, said bay area tourism officials have worked better together.
  5. Channelside deal approved; now it's up to Jeff Vinik to make it work



    The fight for Channelside Bay Plaza is officially over.

    Now begins a new challenge: remaking downtown Tampa's Channel District.

    Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is Channelside's new owner, thanks to the last-second settlement that ended the yearlong court fight over downtown's outdoor mall. The deal was hammered out Sunday night and approved Monday by a bankruptcy judge....

    Under Jeff Vinik’s Channelside Live proposal, the complex would get a facelift and new roster of shops and restaurants.
  6. Copa Airlines to fly 7 days a week out of Tampa International during Christmas season


    TAMPA — Here's a good indicator of the strength of Tampa International Airport's Latin American travel market: Copa Airlines will fly daily over the holidays.

    Copa started flying four times a week between Tampa and Panama City in December. But the airport announced Monday that the airline will increase its Tampa flights to seven times a week from Nov. 17 to Jan. 2.

    When the Copa route started in December, airport CEO Joe Lopano said TIA's long-term goal was to eventually see its Latin American route go daily....

  7. Settlement proposed for Channelside purchase


    The long-running Channelside Bay Plaza saga is on the verge of a stunning and quick resolution.

    The warring parties in the troubled Channelside auction reached a surprise settlement on Sunday night, just hours before a bankruptcy judge was set to accept or reject Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's bid for the downtown Tampa mall.

    In federal court, attorneys filed a proposed "global settlement of pending litigation" late Sunday night that would hand control of Channelside to Vinik....

    Jeff Vinik, owner of the Lightning, won the auction for the Channelside Bay Plaza.
  8. Cruising for ideas on Tampa Bay's costly mega ship problem


    Tampa Bay residents have long been generous in offering helpful advice, be it to football coaches, fellow motorists or visiting tourists.

    So it's no surprise that after a state study revealed that the local cruise ship industry is endangered because mega ships will not fit under the Sunshine Skyway bridge, suggestions from local residents poured in.

    Tampa Bay Times readers offered solutions they believe might be more feasible (cheaper) than the two expensive solutions offered in the state study. The Times did not vet these ideas but is simply passing them along to keep the dialogue going....

  9. Channelside auction dispute ruling coming Monday


    Judgment day for Channelside Bay Plaza's latest would-be savior is Monday.

    That's when U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi will decide whether to approve Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's $7.1 million bid for Channelside.

    Based on the judge's comments after Thursday's hearing, however, Vinik's bid could be in trouble. The judge didn't have any issues with Vinik or his offer, but he said he was troubled by the July 2 auction itself....

    Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, won the auction for Channelside, but Liberty Channelside LLC challenged that result. A judge will rule on the dispute Monday.
  10. Latest court battle begins over Channelside Bay Plaza's fate


    The latest courtroom battle for Channelside Bay Plaza kicked off Tuesday in a federal bankruptcy court in Delaware. The core issue this time around is Tampa Bay Lighting owner Jeff Vinik's winning bid of $7.1 million for the failing downtown Tampa mall.

    The results of the July 2 auction need the approval of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi. But the outcome is being challenged by a group of local real estate investors, Liberty Channelside LLC, who have spent the past year fighting in court for control of the complex....

    [SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times (2013)]
  11. Tampa Port Authority fires back at Liberty in war of words over Channelside auction


    TAMPA — This week in court, Liberty Channelside LLC accused the Tampa Port Authority and bank liquidators of rigging the Channelside Bay Plaza auction in favor of the eventual winner: Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.

    Now the Tampa Port Authority has fired back with an allegation of its own: It was Liberty that sabotaged the auction by failing to bid.

    Had Liberty bid against its competitors — the port and the Vinik group — then the auction would have been more competitive, the motion said....

    A recent view of the Channelside shopping complex.
  12. Tampa's mega cruise ship options limited, expensive, risky


    To save the local cruise ship industry, Tampa Bay has to choose between two of the biggest and most expensive public infrastructure projects in its history.

    One proposal is to spend $2 billion to replace or raise the Sunshine Skyway bridge so that it would be tall enough to allow new mega-sized cruise ships to pass underneath it. Those ships are the future of the cruise industry, but they cannot sail under the current bridge....

    The Carnival Legend cruise ship passes west under the Sunshine Skyway bridge in Tampa Bay on its way for a seven-day cruise in the western Caribbean. The bridge could be raised or replaced in order to help accommodate mega cruise ships, but that would be costly and not solve the problem by itself, a state study has found.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.