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Day before bank loan due, Odyssey Marine sells part of business for $21 million

Deep-sea treasure hunter Odyssey Marine Exploration went searching for riches of personal importance — and found it.

One day before $11.7 million in bank debt was due, the struggling Tampa company on Wednesday announced a financial bailout deal that gives it more stability and the possibility to rebound.

Odyssey said it sold a chunk of its business for $21 million to a firm called Monaco Financial. The deal means Odyssey will keep a 21.25 percent stake in any future proceeds from shipwreck projects, but the sale includes half of Odyssey's interest in Neptune Minerals — a business that seeks to mine underwater mineral deposits — and the building in Tampa where Odyssey executives operate. The bank debt due this week has now been retired.

"This agreement allows Odyssey to immediately monetize shipwreck assets, continue to perform world-class, deep-ocean shipwreck search, archaeology and recovery, and to retain upside potential from the assets we've created over the past 20 years," Odyssey CEO Mark Gordon said in a statement.

In a teleconference with analysts, Gordon said Odyssey's main focus will be to build its business of finding mineral deposits on the floor of the ocean. Searching for and salvaging shipwrecks will remain part of the mix, but less of a focus. The Odyssey CEO said an underseas find of phosphate, known as the Don Diego deposit off Mexico's coast, is a key business venture.

"Mineral deposits can be worth many multiples of shipwrecks," he said.

The company, whose business history is littered with dramatic shipwreck finds but also years of financial losses, has been seeking new injections of capital for some time.

Publicly traded Odyssey has watched its stock price drop dramatically in recent years. Shares dropped 14 months ago below $1 and recently hovered near 25 cents.

Odyssey shares closed up sharply Wednesday, rising 18 percent to 33 cents.

Will this deal be enough to float Odyssey's future? Keep the lifeboats handy.

Contact Robert Trigaux at Follow @venturetampabay.