1. Archive

95 // The year in Review


The "Treasures of the Czars" exhibition opens a six-month run in St. Petersburg that draws national attention and 600,000 visitors and generates an estimated $34-million in direct spending outside the museum.

Malcolm Glazer, a Palm Beach businessman, agrees to buy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, reportedly for a record $192-million. The purchase from the Hugh Culverhouse estate sets the community abuzz. At first, Glazer vows the team will stay in Tampa, but he later says it can't make money without a new stadium and better ticket sales. At year's end, government and business leaders are scrambling to keep the team in town.

Kash n' Karry Food Stores, fresh out of bankruptcy, hires Ron Johnson as chief executive. Johnson draws up plans that include remodeling all of its stores. Johnson's arrival at the Tampa-based grocery chain comes after a year of severe cost-cutting, and Kash n' Karry blossoms into a publicly traded stock.

Bank of Tampa shareholders reject a proposed merger with AmSouth Bancorporation. The rejection means Tampa gets to keep its largest community bank, and it leaves AmSouth red-faced.

Associated Capital Properties of Orlando starts its expansion into Tampa Bay by buying the two-building City Center office complex in downtown St. Petersburg for $9-million.

Microsoft Corp. introduces Bob to the world. Bob, a new computer program, uses characters like a zany cartoon dragon to try and make computers more friendly. By the end of the year, however, Bob takes the backseat to a much bigger Microsoft program: Windows '95.


Brandon TownCenter, the first new regional mall in Pinellas or Hillsborough since 1977, swings opens its doors to vast crowds. The $200-million mall is expected to snatch about $300-million in annual sales from other stores and makes Brandon a major shopping destination.

The Federal Reserve increases short-term interest rates a half percentage point, despite low inflation and signs that the national economy is slowing. It is the seventh _ and last _ attempt by the central bank to slow the economy.

After a miserable 1994, the stock market revs up for what will become one of its best years ever. The Dow Jones industrial average closes above 4,000 for the first time. Nine months later, the Dow passes 5,000.

Federal authorities charge a former AT&T Corp. executive and 16 others in one of the biggest insider trading scams on record. The participants allegedly used insider information to trade on potential AT&T acquisition targets _ including Largo-based Paradyne Corp. in 1988.


Tampa Bay finally lands a Major League Baseball team. Partly as a marketing move, the team is named the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Retailers capitalize on the new franchise, flooding the market with truckloads of Devil Rays T-shirts, hats and other goods.

The Florida Aquarium opens. The $97-million attraction becomes a focal point for economic redevelopment plans in the Port of Tampa area.

Customers and former employees of Prudential Insurance Co. file suits in Tampa against the insurance giant, bringing Florida into the latest insurance industry scandal. Like similar suits filed elsewhere, the Florida suits charge Prudential with "churning" _ using money built up in old policies to pay for new policies. The practice generates big commissions but can leave customers with nothing.

Geonex Corp., a St. Petersburg-based mapmaker, files for bankruptcy protection from creditors. In December, it emerges from bankruptcy as a slimmed-down, private company.

Walter Industries' five-year bankruptcy case ends with court approval of its reorganization plan. The plan gives creditors control of the Tampa-based building company, sets up a fund for asbestos victims and creates one of the region's largest public companies.


Chrysler Corp.'s largest shareholder and its celebrated former chairman stun the business world with a $22.8-billion bid to buy the automaker. But Chrysler resists and the bid by Kirk Kerkorian and Lee Iacocca sputters out.

E-Systems Inc., a Dallas-based maker of electronic communications gear that employs 1,700 people in St. Petersburg, agrees to be acquired by Raytheon Co. for $2.3-billion.

Tampa Bay's tourist industry wraps up a robust winter season thanks to an improved economy and new attractions like the aquarium and the "Treasures of the Czars" exhibition.


The U.S. Department of Energy, in what may prove a national prototype, turns over ownership of its Largo defense plant to Pinellas County. County officials begin converting the plant for use by private companies.

Allstate Insurance Co. asks regulators to approve a 65 percent average increase in Florida homeowners insurance premiums and drops 20,000 customers on Florida's west coast. The moves underscore the continuing anemia of Florida's market for homeowners insurance.

Superior Surgical Mfg. Co. Inc., a uniform maker based in Seminole, says it and its chief executive are the subject of a federal criminal investigation involving $32-million in contracts with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The investigation is still pending.


Beneficial Corp. gives up 10 years of struggling to turn Tampa's Harbour Island into a tourist-style retail marketplace. Instead, the company announces it will turn the retail and restaurant space at Harbour Island into a customer service center for itself that will create about 200 full-time telemarketing jobs.

Japan promises to open its automobile market to the United States in a sudden agreement that averts a trade war between the world's two largest economies.

Pharmacy Management Services, a Tampa mail-order drug company, completes its sale to nursing home giant Beverly Enterprises.

Walt Disney Co. unveils plans to spend $760-million to build Wild Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Twice as big as Epcot Center, the 500-acre spread will feature live animals and Disneyesque robots ranging from dinosaurs to dragons. It is scheduled to open in 1998.

New annuities regulations are introduced by Comptroller Bob Milligan and state insurance regulators. The rules require banks to follow a variety of consumer protection regulations if they sell annuities. They come after several big banks are accused of selling annuities to unwitting consumers.


Eight women file a federal lawsuit charging that Publix, the state's largest grocery store chain, discriminates against its women employees, steering them into dead-end jobs and denying them the pay and promotions given to men. Publix denies the charges.

Southwest Airlines, the nation's premiere low-fare airline, announces it will begin service from Tampa International Airport in January 1996. The move triggers fare cuts by other airlines.

The Federal Reserve lowers interest rates for the first time since the recession ended, signaling that the central bank believes the economy is souring. Five months later, the Fed trims rates again.

Kimberly-Clark, which built a global business on runny noses and babies'behinds, absorbs Scott Paper Co., based in Boca Raton, in a $6.8-billion deal. The deal comes after Scott lays off hundreds of employees. In December, Kimberly-Clark announces plans to close Scott's nearly new headquarters in Florida.

Packard Bell Electronics says it will pay more than $2-million in refunds and repairs to settle customer complaints that it falsely sold its computers as new when they contained used parts.

Air South, a growing low-cost carrier at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, moves across the bay to Tampa International Airport.

State regulators discipline a California insurance company and, by extension, Barnett Banks. Regulators strip James Mitchell & Co. of its ability to sell annuities through the bank's branches, or anywhere else in the state. Regulators say Mitchell's representatives, in pitching annuities, deceived Barnett customers.


Microsoft Corp., amid a seemingly endless barrage of hype, starts selling its Windows '95 program. The program is designed to make the world's most-used computer operating system easier _ and more like Apple Computer's Macintosh systems. Consumers around the world snap up the program. At year's end, Windows '95 is still the talk of computer buffs and business people everywhere.

CBS Inc. agrees to a $5.4-billion offer from the broadcasting and industrial conglomerate Westinghouse Electric Corp.

Home Shopping Network, amid sagging profits, is shaken up by Hollywood executive Barry Diller and big Home Shopping Network shareholder Tele-Communications Inc. Diller takes over former Home Shopping subsidiary Silver King Communications and is named to the board of Home Shopping. Home Shopping president and chief executive Gerald Hogan is forced to resign.

The Starkey family sells 3,635 acres of land in central Pasco County to the Trust for Public Land, which preserves land for the public.

Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson fires four top executives at a Sarasota insurance company called Shared Market Insurance Services Inc. The company was established to administer policies in the JUA, the state-run homeowner insurer of last resort. The firing alerts the public to problems in the company's handling of JUA policies and a grand jury investigation.

State Farm Insurance says it won't write new homeowners policies in Florida, in yet another sign that problems in Florida's homeowners insurance market are getting worse.

Signature Group, one of the nation's biggest telemarketers, announces plans to open a new telemarketing center in St. Petersburg that will employ 400 full- and part-time employees. Signature becomes the latest in a number of telemarketing operations to flock to Tampa Bay, lured by low wages and cheap real estate.

The Tampa Port Authority chooses the Hogan Group Inc. to develop a centerpiece entertainment, retail and restaurant complex near the Florida Aquarium and Garrison Seaport Center.

Holland & Knight, the largest Florida-based law firm, makes headlines by offering health insurance to its gay employees' domestic partners and their dependent children.

DuPont Co. is fined $115-million for its conduct during a 1993 trial over claims that its Benlate fungicide wiped out thousands of acres of crops and plants. The fine _ later put on temporary hold by a federal judge _ came after DuPont is accused of withholding evidence in a 1993 trial involving growers from Florida and other states.


Pasco County lands its first gambling cruise ship when the Pair-A-Dice pulls into Port Richey. The ship does so well that its owners soon replace it with a bigger ship, the Paradise II.

AT&T announces it is breaking up again. The nation's largest telecommunications provider says it will divide into three _ a communications services company, a communications equipment company and a computer equipment company.

Time Warner and Turner Broadcasting System agree to create the world's largest entertainment company in a merger valued at about $7.5-billion. The combined company would create a global music, cable, film and animation powerhouse.

The last big piece of fallen developer Ken Good's Tampa Palms project is sold to a Connecticut company. Starwood Capital Group, developer and part-owner of the Westin Hotel Co., buys 590 acres at the massive Tampa Palms development for $6.5-million.

The Joint Underwriting Association's executive director says the bloated insurance pool its still growing despite efforts by lawmakers and regulators to shrink it.


Anheuser-Busch Cos. announces it will shut down its 36-year-old Tampa brewery as part of a broad business restructuring. When it closes in mid-December, the plant eliminates about 375 of the best-paying jobs in Tampa.

AT&T Paradyne, based in Largo, is put on the sales block by AT&T Corp. No buyer emerges by the end of the year.

Hurricane Opal pummels the Panhandle. Insurance companies estimate the damage to insured property at $1.8-billion.

The Sunshine Mall in Clearwater, one of the first enclosed malls in Florida when it opened 27 years ago, loses all but two tenants.

Globe Facilities Entertainment becomes the latest group with plans to build a theater near the Port of Tampa.

Lykes Bros. Steamship Cos., one of the nation's largest ocean carriers, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Cruise ship Regent Rainbow is seized for unpaid debts, leaving hundreds of departing cruise passengers stranded at the Port of Tampa and elsewhere. The seizure is a precursor to Regency Cruises filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and, later, ceasing operations.

Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. solidifies its place as the region's dominant health care provider by acquiring three more Pinellas County hospitals.


Despite gains in productivity, unusually low unemployment and slowing costs for health care, earnings and benefits for U.S. workers post their lowest annual increase on record. The measly 2.8 percent gain in pay and 2.2 percent gain in benefits leave lots left over for investors, who reap the rewards through record stock market gains.

The Barry Diller era begins at Home Shopping Network Inc. Diller is named chairman of St. Petersburg-based Home Shopping as part of a deal that gives his far-smaller Silver King Communications Inc. controlling interest in the television retailer. James Held, one-time No. 2 executive at rival QVC, is brought in as the company's new chief executive.

Five area hospitals tentatively agree with Columbia/HCA to create a major health care network that could trigger a battle over patients, services and prices in Tampa Bay. The agreement includes Tampa General Hospital, All Children's, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Helen Ellis Memorial and the University of South Florida's Health Science Center. The deal would create two super hospital networks in the Tampa Bay region: Columbia and rival BayCare.

American Multi-Cinema opens the Regency 20 in Brandon. With 20 screens, it is Florida's biggest movie theater.

Equifax Payment Services, with 1,500 employees, decides to move from seven buildings in Tampa to the giant Honeywell building on Roosevelt Boulevard in St. Petersburg.

Law enforcement agents raid the offices of National Assessment Institute in Clearwater, a testing company run by Jim Bax, a fundraiser and political confidant of former insurance commissioner Tom Gallagher.

The Florida Windstorm Underwriting Association asks state regulators to approve an 83 percent increase in homeowners insurance premiums. The windpool provides coverage in the state's riskiest coastal areas.

In a sign of the times, Bethlehem Steel Corp. extinguishes the last blast furnace at its flagship plant in Bethlehem, Pa., sending home 1,800 workers and ending an operation that had poured steel since before the Civil War.

The Food and Drug Administration says Florida restaurant inspectors don't focus enough on food temperatures and dirty dishes and recommends that restaurant owners be required to post health inspection report cards.


Mortgage interest rates hit the lowest levels since September 1993. The low rates do little to improve the housing market, however. New home sales in Tampa Bay and the rest of the nation are little changed from the previous year.

NBC and Microsoft join forces to start a 24-hour all-news cable channel and an online service that will enable computer users to watch the news on their PCs.

After months of eyeing Clearwater, Western Reserve Life of Largo files plans to build a new five-story headquarters at Carillon, the big office park in north St. Petersburg. Western Reserve officials have said the headquarters could employ more than 1,000 people within five years.

The parent of Tampa-based Nutmeg Mills consolidates its sports apparel business in Tampa, creating at least 100 new jobs at its two local factories.

The Floridan Hotel, a vacant and decrepit Tampa landmark, gets a breath of new life after Grand Heritage Hotels announces plans to buy and renovate the 69-year-old Floridan.

Anchor Glass Container Corp. announces a debt restructuring plan that promises to lift the Tampa-based company out of a potentially perilous financial situation.

A lackluster Christmas selling season helped turn 1995 into a generally lousy year for retailers nationwide. Early projections, however, indicate Tampa Bay retailers may emerge as some of the few retailers nationwide to see slight sales gains in 1995.

The Florida International Museum's attempts to duplicate the success of the "Treasures of the Czars" exhibit with a "Splendors of Ancient Egypt" show hit a snag over contract negotiations between the museum and Egyptian officials.

_ Times staff writers Mark Albright, Teresa Burney, Sarah Cohen, Tim Gray, Helen Huntley, Robert Trigaux and Lara Wozniak contributed to this report.