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  1. Business

Jeff Vinik takes stake in Tampa hedge fund service firm eager to woo asset managers here

TAMPA — When former Wall Street investing guru turned Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik talks, people listen. And when he invests in something himself, people pay attention.

Vinik recently took a minority stake in a Tampa business that provides back-office and marketing services to hedge funds. The firm, Oakpoint Advisors, operates out of a small office in the Wells Fargo tower in downtown Tampa. Oakpoint is run by Wall Street veteran Gerry Coughlin, who previously ran Vinik Asset Management in Tampa before Jeff Vinik decided to get out of the hedge fund business.

Having gotten a taste for the Gulf Coast lifestyle, Coughlin, 50, says he decided to build his Oakpoint Advisors business in downtown Tampa. It has grown to ten people in the home office with another four marketing specialists in such key investing towns as Boston, Chicago and the New York metro area.

Rather than return to waiting in the cold to catch the 4:45 a.m. train to Manhattan, Coughlin says he can now leave his Tampa office at 5:55 p.m. and be coaching his daughter's softball team by 6 p.m. That's a way of life that can appeal to many hedge fund managers and workers — once they know about it, Coughlin says.

Many hedge fund operators are leaving the Northeast, often heading to Boca Raton and Miami. Coughlin wants to spread the word that Tampa Bay is a less frenetic, gulf coast gem waiting to be discovered.

Vinik, who once ran one of the nation's major hedge funds, is putting an undisclosed sum into Oakpoint. The firm aims to help hedge funds get off the ground as the $3 trillion industry faces mounting challenges.

Also known as the alternative assets industry, hedge funds are having a "hard go" of things for many reasons, Coughlin says. "What we do is provide options to make it easier."

Oakpoint offers hedge funds or talented investors thinking about starting one with the back-office infrastructure of accountants, compliance officers and trading needs, as well as a marketing team that helps attract capital to the hedge fund clients.

That dual service can save hedge funds money getting started. Oakpoint gets a percentage of the revenue generated on the money it raises, and collects an incremental fee for the other services.

Vinik ran Fidelity's Magellan Fund when it was the world's biggest mutual fund, then opened his own hedge fund. He returned the capital from his Vinik hedge fund, in 2013 turning it into a family office or private wealth management operation after relocating to Tampa and buying the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team.

Vinik has since joined with Bill Gates' Cascade Investment in a major real estate project near Tampa's downtown.

"I see the opportunity to create a hedge fund cluster here," Vinik told Bloomberg News.

Coughlin agrees. "This is what I told Jeff and a reason he bought into the business.

"We can do a better job positioning Tampa as a destination for asset managers."

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com. Follow @venturetampabay.

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