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Tampa City Attorney James Shimberg Jr. joins parent of Lightning

Published Apr. 11, 2013

TAMPA — City Attorney James Shimberg Jr. on Wednesday was named to a top job with the parent company of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Tampa Bay Storm and the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The team said Shimberg, 53, will start his new position as executive vice president and general counsel of Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment on May 1. There, he will oversee all legal matters for the organization as well as owner Jeff Vinik's outside real estate interests.

"It's just a dream job," Shimberg said. "I'll sort of have an opportunity to combine law with business with some real estate development with some of the great work in the community that the Lightning Foundation is doing with Mr. Vinik."

Shimberg is the second member of Mayor Bob Buckhorn's senior staff to leave City Hall at the midpoint of his four-year term. Last week, Tampa Bay & Co., Hillsborough County's tourism development agency, hired city chief of staff Santiago Corrada as its new president and chief executive officer.

"We're getting a lot done, but as a result of the fact that we're getting a lot done, our people are in demand," Buckhorn said. "They would have been foolish to turn (the job offers) down. They've done great work."

Buckhorn said he hopes to fill both jobs soon and wants to hire a new chief of staff before Corrada leaves in three weeks.

When Buckhorn was elected in 2011, he and Shimberg had been friends for about 25 years, ever since the two worked on the campaign of then-County Commission candidate Pam Iorio.

Shimberg told Buckhorn he wanted to help him get off to a good start but probably would be able to stay for only two years. Buckhorn hired Shimberg at a salary of $175,000 annually — less than he made as the head of the Tampa Bay real estate group at the law firm of Holland & Knight. His new salary with the Lightning was not disclosed.

Buckhorn praised Shimberg's commitment to the city and said residents were better off because of his counsel.

"I never had to watch my back, ever, because I knew he would always have my best interest," he said. "I trusted him, and I knew I was going to get the best legal advice that he could give me."

For the Lightning, Shimberg brings a close working relationship with city officials.

"He'll know what my reaction's going to be before they even ask," Buckhorn said.

But he also brings strong and wide-ranging ties to the community. His father and uncle developed Town 'N Country, and the Shimberg family has been active in Tampa business, political and philanthropic circles for decades.

He has served as general counsel for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the Tampa Downtown Partnership and is a trustee of the Shimberg Family Foundation, formed by parents James and Amy Shimberg.

"His wealth of local knowledge, legal expertise and deep community relationships will elevate our executive team," Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment chief executive officer Tod Leiweke said.

In his new job, Shimberg will provide counsel on corporate, contractual, real estate and administrative matters as well as negotiate and draft agreements for events, sponsorships, television broadcasts, promotions and media activities. He will also manage the company's legal, human resources, administrative and information technology operations.

Asked whether he expected the job to include working on a downtown stadium plan for the Tampa Bay Rays, Shimberg said, "not that I know of."

"They haven't really shared all their plans with me," he said, though he noted that the Lightning does have development interests in the area. For example, it holds the rights to develop the parking lot west of the Times Forum. "That's just one example, but there are other things they're working on."

At City Hall, Shimberg supervises 24 attorneys and a support staff of about 10. When he took the job, he said there were three areas where he wanted to help the mayor: preparing for last year's Republican National Convention, helping launch Buckhorn's economic development initiatives and settling two long-running lawsuits.

The first of those suits was brought by Citivest Construction Corp., which accepted $3.75 million last year to drop its 8-year-old case over the City Council's denial of its application to build a condo tower on Bayshore Boulevard.

The second was settled the same day when the city agreed to pay $350,000 to former Tampa police Capt. Marion Lewis, who had contended he was wrongfully terminated when he qualified to run for mayor in 2007.

Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403.

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