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Penny Vinik seeks divorce from Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik

The petition to dissolve the marriage of 33 years was filed this week in Hillsborough County.
Jeff and Penny Vinik greet Margaret Norman in 2016 after announcing a record $2.5 million donation to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay. DIRK SHADD   |  Times (2016)
Jeff and Penny Vinik greet Margaret Norman in 2016 after announcing a record $2.5 million donation to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay. DIRK SHADD | Times (2016)
Published Jun. 12, 2020
Updated Jun. 12, 2020

TAMPA — After nearly 33 years of marriage, Jeff and Penny Vinik, one of the Tampa Bay area’s leading philanthropic couples, are headed for divorce court.

Penny Vinik, 57, filed a petition Monday in Hillsborough Circuit Court to dissolve her marriage with Jeff Vinik, 61, the owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and a developer of Water Street Tampa.

Without elaboration, the petition says the marriage is irretrievably broken.

“Jeff and Penny respectfully request privacy while they amicably work on their relationship,” Bill Wickett, a spokesman for Jeff Vinik, said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

Related: Jeff Vinik bought the Lightning. Then his influence spread over Tampa Bay.

The couple met at a bar and restaurant when Jeff Vinik was a Harvard graduate student and she was working at an international consulting firm in Cambridge. They married in 1987 in Massachusetts, where Jeff Vinik rose to prominence in his 30s for his success growing Fidelity Investments’ flagship Magellan Fund from $20 billion to $55 billion. The Viniks have four children, Danny, Jared, Kyra and Joshua, none of whom are minors. The older three children are in their 20s.

The family moved to Tampa a couple of years after Jeff Vinik bought the Lightning in 2010 for an estimated $110 million.

Penny Vinik “has made a substantial contribution to the acquisition of the parties’ assets and the produce of income throughout this 33-year marriage,” the petition says. She is represented by West Palm Beach divorce attorney Jeffrey Fisher, whose previous clients have included Angela Koch in her divorce from billionaire oil tycoon William Koch and Brooke Gordon in her divorce from NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon.

Many of the Viniks’ marital assets, according to the petition, are titled in the names of business entities such as partnerships, limited liability corporations, foundations and trusts. Estimates of Jeff Vinik’s net worth in 2013 were in the $500 million range, though he has added substantially to his business interests since then.

“Although the marital estate is large, and the wife’s equitable distribution will be substantial, most of the assets are controlled by the husband," the petition says. "Therefore, the wife seeks temporary alimony. The parties enjoy a very high standard of living which should be maintained without interruption on a temporary basis.”

In the past decade, Jeff and Penny Vinik have established themselves as one of the region’s most generous and wide-ranging philanthropic families.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple’s donations to coronavirus relief efforts have approached $2 million. They’ve given $1 million to Metropolitan Ministries for food and rent assistance and nearly $1 million more to civic relief funds in Tampa and St. Petersburg, help for University of South Florida students, an aid awareness campaign and a fund for Lightning employees.

Their previous gifts have included:

• $20.1 million through the Lightning’s Community Heroes program, which since 2011 has made $50,000 grants to nonprofits at each of the team’s home and playoff games.

• More than $5 million to USF’s Muma College of Business, which named its sport and entertainment management program for the Viniks.

• $5 million to the endowment at the Tampa Museum of Art to support the position of executive director. Penny Vinik also serves as vice chairwoman on the museum’s governing board of trustees.

• $2.5 million to renovate and expand a Boys and Girls Club recreation center in the Palm River area. It was the largest single gift in the 90-year history of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay.

• $1 million to preserve the Jackson House, a run-down but historic Tampa rooming house that hosted black civil rights leaders and entertainers during segregation.

• Three crowd-pleasing art installations: the Beach Tampa at Amalie Arena in 2016, the free collection of Lego sculptures known as the Art of the Brick in 2017, and Yayoi Kusama’s Love is Calling to the Tampa Museum of Art in 2018.

• The donation of an acre of downtown land for the new USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute.

The $189 million medical school building is an anchor for the $3 billion Water Street Tampa project, which Vinik is developing in partnership with Cascade Investment, the private wealth fund of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. At build-out, the project will encompass 56 acres around Amalie Arena, including the site of the ConAgra flour mill, and 9 million square feet of development, including 3,500 residences, two new office towers, three hotels and about 13 acres of parks.

Jeff Vinik also is a member of FBN Partners, a group of local investors who have loaned $15 million to Times Publishing Co., which owns the Tampa Bay Times.

Penny Vinik is seeking temporary exclusive use of the couple’s homes in South Tampa and Chatham, Mass., as well as Porsche sports utility vehicles that she regularly uses at both homes. She says she agrees that he may have exclusive use of the couple’s home in Sarasota while the divorce is pending. And she seeks to use the Vinik’s private aircraft and charters as necessary and in keeping with past use.

Times staff writer John Martin contributed to this report.