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Outsiders keep buying Tampa Bay’s largest companies. Here’s why it matters.

Tech Data is just the latest in a growing list of public companies bought up by out-of-state firms.
Some of Tampa Bay's largest companies are being sold or are up for sale. [Times files and Bloomin' Brands]
Some of Tampa Bay's largest companies are being sold or are up for sale. [Times files and Bloomin' Brands]
Published Nov. 14, 2019
Updated Nov. 14, 2019

Regions with lots of Fortune 500 companies play up that fact. They use corporate clout as a sales pitch.

Some punch above their weight class, like Irving, Texas, which is about the size of St. Petersburg, and boasted seven Fortune 500 companies last year. The Minneapolis-St. Paul area had 15, almost as many as all of Florida.

The Tampa Bay area has done an admirable job of growing start-ups into corporate heavyweights. Tech Data, WellCare Health Plans and Raymond James Financial are all home-grown success stories with enough revenues to make the list of the county’s 500 largest companies.

Jabil Inc. makes the cut, too, though it got its start in Detroit before moving to St. Petersburg, where it grew into a Fortune 500 company. So does Mosaic. The fertilizer company moved its headquarters to Hillsborough County last year.

Tampa Bay, though, has struggled to hang on to its largest publicly traded companies. In just the past five years, a Canadian company bought TECO Energy, parent of Tampa Electric. QVC took on HSN, also known as the Home Shopping Network. Insurance provider Brown & Brown officially moved its headquarters to Daytona Beach. A St. Louis company agreed in March to buy WellCare, and a private equity firm announced Wednesday that it offered $5.4 billion for Tech Data, an IT distributor based in Largo.

RELATED: What’s it like to sell a company for $5.4 billion? We asked Tech Data’s Rich Hume

The WellCare and Tech Data sales should close in the first half of next year. When that happens, the list of the 10 largest companies headquartered in the Tampa Bay area will be dramatically different than five years ago.

Outsiders will own two of the three largest companies. Five of the top 10 will no longer be headquartered here, or will no longer be traded on a stock market. It could get worse. Bloomin’ Brands, the parent of Outback Steakhouse and other restaurant chains, said recently that it was open to a sale.

Another way to measure the loss: Last year, the 10 largest public companies headquartered in Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough and Hernando counties had nearly $109 billion in combined revenues. By this time next year, the total could be cut in half, as much smaller companies take the place of behemoths like Tech Data.

I wouldn’t count on luring any companies the size of Tech Data, 88th-largest in the country last year. That’s not a knock on the Tampa Bay area. It’s just hard to persuade a Fortune 500 — or even a Fortune 1000 company — to move. When they do hint about relocating, cities and states engage in a feeding frenzy to land them.

Florida is pro-business and tax-friendly. Just this week, the Orlando Sentinel reported that an estimated 99 percent of all businesses in the state no longer pay any corporate income tax. Even so, it’s not like a stream of huge companies are moving here. The state has about the same number of Fortune 500 companies as it did 20 years ago.

Locally, Mosaic is the exception. The fertilizer company relocated its headquarters from Minnesota to downtown Tampa last year, though most of its operations including its employees were already in Central Florida.

We should be flattered that so many of our local companies are attractive to outsiders. Still, the losses chip away at our corporate prestige. We lose the bragging rights. Five Fortune 500 companies sounds better than three, our total once WellCare and Tech Data sell.

Headquarters matter. They signal that large companies believe in an area. They are also more likely to invest in their home towns. Tech Data sponsors the St. Pete Pride Parade. Raymond James has its name on the local football stadium. Former founders and executives at Bloomin’ Brands started several other restaurant chains in the Tampa Bay area.

Those aren’t coincidences.

Tampa Bay’s largest public companies

In just five years, a series of buyouts and mergers has radically altered Tampa Bay’s list of largest companies. Below is what the top 10 looked like in 2013, what it looks like today and what it could look like next year once the WellCare and Tech Data sales are completed. The 2020 list also assumes that Bloomin’ Brands finds a buyer. Companies added to the list since 2013 are in bold.

Top 10 in 2013

1. Tech Data (Largo)
2. Jabil Inc. (St. Petersburg)
3. WellCare Health Plans (Tampa)
4. Bloomin’ Brands (Tampa)
5. Raymond James Financial (St. Petersburg)
6. HSN (St. Petersburg)
7. TECO Energy (Tampa)
8. Cott Corp. (Tampa)
9. Sykes Enterprises (Tampa)
10. Brown & Brown (Tampa and Daytona Beach)
Total annual revenue : $68.67 billion

Top 10 today

1. Tech Data
2. Jabil Inc.
3. WellCare Health Plans
4. Mosaic Co. (Tampa)
5. Raymond James Financial
6. Bloomin’ Brands
7. Cott Corp.
8. Masonite International (Tampa)
9. Sykes Enterprises
10. Welbilt (New Port Richey)
Total annual revenue:* $108.5 billion

Top 10 in 2020 (projected)

1. Jabil Inc.
2. Mosaic Co.
3. Raymond James Financial
4. Cott Corp.
5. Masonite International
6. Sykes Enterprises
7. Welbilt
8. Kforce (Tampa)
9. MarineMax (Clearwater)
10. United Insurance Holdings (St. Petersburg)
Total annual revenue:** $49.8 billion

Eligible companies have their headquarters in Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough or Hernando counties.

* 2018 revenues.

** Projected from 2018 revenues.

Source: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.


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