Lightning owner Jeff Vinik just sold his stake in the company that developed an unremarkable corner of downtown Tampa into the bustling Water Street neighborhood of upscale high-rises and trendy restaurants.
Vinik announced this week the sale of his interest in Strategic Property Partners to his partner in the project, Bill Gates’ Cascade Investment.
The price of the sale, which happened Wednesday, was not disclosed. But it was initiated by Vinik, who will remain an “active” adviser as the next phase of Water Street begins, according to a news release.
So why is he selling?
“More time,” Vinik told the Tampa Bay Times this week. “I’m 64 years old with a new grandson.”
“QTR — quality time remaining,” he said. “Somebody introduced me to that phrase.”
Vinik took an interest in the land around Amalie Arena after he acquired the Lightning in 2010 and teamed up with Cascade to form Strategic Property Partners.
“Prior to this, I had no experience with commercial real estate development,” he said.
Phase One of Water Street sprouted across 24 acres at the southeast corner of downtown. Today it includes 1,335 residential units, the five-star Tampa Edition hotel recently named one of the best new hotels in the world by Travel + Leisure, the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute and notable restaurants, including The Pearl, Boulon Brasserie and Lilac.
“It’s easy to come to a new place and point out its flaws, but when Jeff came here, he instead saw what was possible,” Brian Murphy, CEO of cybersecurity firm ReliaQuest, Water Street’s biggest corporate tenant, said via text. “Then he made it happen.”
Did the project turn out as Vinik envisioned?
“Better,” he said.
Former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Vinik “believed in Tampa’s potential when many in Tampa did not, and he put his resources and his passion to help this city write its next chapter.”
Vinik exits with the first phase of Water Street completed. Phase Two, which will stretch north, is in the early infrastructure stages involving roads and utilities. For the second phase, Vinik said, both he and Cascade want to see “more of the same.”
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“Cascade stands firmly committed to supporting SPP by providing and attracting additional capital for continued mixed-use development as Tampa realizes its future as an international beacon of business innovation, talent and culture,” Cascade’s Chief Investment Officer Michael Larson said in a news release.
Earlier this month came a report that the Lighting was selling a minority stake in the team to a private equity firm that invests in passive minority ownership in sports franchises — something the Lightning also did in 2021. Vinik said it would be “business as usual” for the Lightning.
Water Street, he said, will proceed similarly.
“There’s been no change in the Lightning. It’s the same thing with SPP,” he said. “Cascade is very bullish on this area and the potential here. I am, too.”
Vinik also said he’s not going anywhere.
He and his wife Penny, who live in South Tampa by the Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club, recently purchased the house next door for $5 million.
Earlier this year, the Viniks bought the penthouse at Water Street’s Tampa Edition for $8.34 million — the most expensive condo ever sold in the Tampa Bay region. He said his wife is customizing the penthouse, which is “almost ready.”
Vinik said he plans to spend time with his first grandchild, 3½ month old Riley, to a have a chance to read a book and to attend Lightning practices. The idea of getting into politics “was on the list until about five seconds later (when) it was off the list,” he said.
“My priorities with my newfound time are my family, the Lightning and this community,” Vinik said.