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Tampa's HomeBancorp buys Bill Edwards' Mortgage Investors Corp.

The Shops at St. Pete and Mahaffey Theater are two things filling Bill Edwards’ plate.
Published Jan. 26, 2013

Local businessman and civic activist Bill Edwards is selling his St. Petersburg mortgage firm to Tampa-based HomeBancorp, a cross-bay deal that unites two companies that have worked together for years.

Edwards' firm, Mortgage Investors Corp., which specializes in Department of Veterans Affairs refinance mortgage loans, will continue to be run as a wholly owned subsidiary of HomeBancorp. It employs 1,200 nationwide, including 900 in the Tampa Bay area.

Terms were not disclosed.

Edwards will retire as Mortgage Investors' chairman, a position he has held since 1994, but will remain a consultant. The remainder of employees with the mortgage firm, including CEO Jeff Crilley and other senior management, are expected to stay.

"My birthday is on Sunday. I'll be 68. I figure it's about time I hand it off," Edwards said in an interview Friday. "My plate is full of other stuff."

That "other stuff" includes his purchase and planned revitalization of downtown St. Petersburg's BayWalk complex, which was renamed Shops at St. Pete, and a contract to manage the city-owned Mahaffey Theater.

"I'm looking forward to getting (Shops at St. Pete) started this year," he said. "I also intend to begin construction by the end of the year on the addition to the Club at Treasure Island. And, of course, there's the (Mahaffey) theater. I'm very proud of how that's coming along. I've got a lot of irons in the fire."

Outside mortgage circles, Edwards has carved a reputation as a music producer with his Big 3 Entertainment, producing records for artists such as American Idol finalist Michael Lynche, Cheap Trick and Carnie Wilson.

In recent years, Edwards emerged as a go-to financial source for civic causes. He sent a $4.6 million donation to the Republican National Convention's host committee to help meet its fundraising goal and he bankrolled a welcoming tower on the Pinellas side of the Howard Frankland Bridge.

On Friday, he said he still wasn't even thinking of taking a vacation ("not right away") after exiting Mortgage Investors.

"I don't plan on ever retiring," he said. "I wouldn't know what to do with myself."

Edwards, the controlling stockholder of Mortgage Investors, said the deal includes stock in HomeBancorp but declined to elaborate on the finances.

He said his mortgage firm and the Tampa bank have developed a strong working relationship over the past five years.

Jerry Campbell, CEO of HomeBancorp, said bringing Mortgage Investors into the fold will not only expand VA lending opportunities for veterans nationwide, but also "enhance the capital position, strength and profitability of both organizations."

Over the past 18 years, Mortgage Investors has provided more than $40 billion in VA-guaranteed loans to more than 350,000 veterans.

HomeBanc operates eight branches and five loan production offices in Central Florida. Last month, it announced plans to acquire eight Pinellas County branches owned by First Bank of St. Louis. The deal is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2013.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at jharrington@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8242.

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