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Baseball group courts investors

The ownership group hoping to bring major-league baseball to Tampa Bay has continued its search for additional local investors. Numerous businesses and individuals have been contacted recently: CONTACTED AND AGREEING TO INVEST William R. Hough, president of William R. Hough & Co., a St. Petersburg municipal bond firm, has agreed to invest and is helping the ownership group raise additional money.

CONTACTED AND THINKING ABOUT IT

John M. Galbraith, who heads the Templeton mutual funds' St. Petersburg operation, said he was told Thursday that a deal is being put together in which he would be asked to participate. "They gave me no details," he said. "I was just put on notice that I would get another phone call."

Thomas Hammons, Sarasota businessman who once headed a rival ownership group, said he was approached several weeks ago about investing and declined, but is keeping the door open. "I want very much to help all I can to see them get a team. If that means helping to raise money, I'll help. I'm not playing hard to get."

CONTACTED AND DECLINING TO INVEST

Cleveland businessman A. Reynolds Morse, original donor and president of the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, said he was approached last week to invest $500,000 via a limited partnership. Morse declined.

Florida Progress Corp., the parent of St. Petersburg-based Florida Power, expressed interest early on in baseball ownership, but is no longer interested, said company spokesman William C. Johnson.

Andrew Barnes, President/CEO of the Times Publishing Company (the parent company of the St. Petersburg Times) declined to invest, saying it would present "a conflict (for the newspaper) that would be very, very hard to reconcile."

CONTACTED AND NOT SAYING

At Communications Equity Associates Inc., Tom Cardy, vice president of operations, said company officials have talked "on and off" about becoming investors. They were contacted about two weeks ago. Cardy said he had "no comment" when asked whether they are going to invest.

NOT CONTACTED BUT MAY BE INTERESTED

Timothy A. Johnson Jr., a prominent Clearwater development lawyer, said he might be interested. "It sounds like an exciting venture," said Johnson.

Retired St. Petersburg businessman Y. Y. Phillips, who says he is personal friends with some members of the ownership group, said he could not invest "a couple of million dollars" in the team. But if it were a question of $500,000, "I would be glad to take a look at it."

Frank Chunn, a Tampa real estate investor, said he and partner Charles Mendez have not been contacted. He said he might be interested but would have to study it.

NOT CONTACTED AND NOT INTERESTED

Jack M. Eckerd, former chairman of the Jack Eckerd Corp., says he has not been approached about an investment in the team. He describes himself as a baseball fan, but says he has "no ability to participate" as a financial contributor.

Top executives at Raymond James Financial Inc. in St. Petersburg have not been approached about investing in the team, vice president Lawrence Silver said. Chairman Thomas A. James is not interested in investing in the ownership group, Silver said.

Tom Rankin of Lykes Brothers Inc. said he has not been contacted and isn't interested.

William E. Starkey, president of GTE Information Services Inc., said he has not been contacted and would not be interested.

_ Times staff writers Bernice Stengle, Helen Huntley, Alan Goldstein, Robert Trigaux and Kim Norris contributed to this report.

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