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Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff and Penny Vinik to divorce

After decades of marriage, the Tampa Bay power couple are parting ways.
 
A spokesperson for the family confirmed the divorce will not impact the ownership or day-to-day operations of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
A spokesperson for the family confirmed the divorce will not impact the ownership or day-to-day operations of the Tampa Bay Lightning. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Feb. 2|Updated Feb. 2

TAMPA — After nearly four decades of marriage, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny, two of the region’s most prolific philanthropists, say they are divorcing, a prospect they explored a few years ago.

A spokesperson for the family confirmed the divorce will not affect the ownership or day-to-day operations of the three-time Stanley Cup Champion National Hockey League team.

The couple’s fingerprints can be found throughout Tampa Bay, from their donations to cultural institutions and positions on civic boards. But most notably, Jeff Vinik, 64, was part of a partnership that has worked to develop Water Street Tampa, transforming an unremarkable corner of downtown Tampa into the bustling neighborhood of upscale high-rises and trendy restaurants.

Friday’s announcement comes nearly four years after Penny Vinik, now 61, filed a petition in June 2020 in Hillsborough Circuit Court to dissolve the marriage, saying it was irretrievably broken. But the pair reconciled, ending divorce proceedings months later.

There was no new divorce filing listed in Hillsborough County on Friday.

“We continue to have great respect and love for one another and what we have achieved as a couple and a family,” the pair said in a statement Friday morning.

The couple met at a bar and restaurant when Jeff was a Harvard graduate student and Penny was working at an international consulting firm in Cambridge. They married in 1987 in Massachusetts, where Jeff rose to prominence for his work with Fidelity Investments’ flagship Magellan Fund.

They have four children.

The family moved to Tampa in 2012, a couple of years after Jeff bought the Lightning for an estimated $110 million. He had commuted between Boston and Tampa for two years before settling in the Sunshine State.

“Neither of us are big beach people and I don’t play golf,” Jeff told the Tampa Bay Times following his and Penny’s move. “That’s why I bought a hockey team, so I don’t have to golf.”

Jeff Vinik, center, celebrating a Lightning victory in 2021.
Jeff Vinik, center, celebrating a Lightning victory in 2021. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

In the years since, the couple have poured millions into causes ranging from arts and education to health care and children — catapulting themselves into some of Tampa Bay’s highest-profile residents.

Recent gifts include:

  • $1.5 million to help expand the Florida Aquarium in Tampa.
  • $5 million to help build a football stadium for the University of South Florida.
  • $5 million to create a family education center at the Tampa Museum of Art. In 2019, the Viniks made a $5 million donation to the museum to endow an executive director position.
  • $1 million to the V Foundation for Cancer Research to expand pediatric cancer research.

The Vinik Family Foundation also donates $50,000 to a local nonprofit at every Lightning home game.

Vinik has been instrumental in remaking the land around the team’s stadium, now home to Water Street, a mix of swanky restaurants and upscale residences wedged between the downtown skyline and the Channel District neighborhood along the city’s port.

Last year, Vinik sold his share of Strategic Property Partners, the developer of Water Street. At the time, he told the Times that he remained committed to the city but wanted more quality time with family.

The Viniks own three homes in Palma Ceia near the golf course, a custom-built mansion in Sarasota and the penthouse at Water Street’s Tampa Edition for which they paid $8.34 million — the most expensive condo ever sold in the region. Last year, they paid $63.75 million for a mansion in Aspen, Colorado.

Former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the Viniks believed in Tampa’s potential when many did not, helping to usher in a new era of development for the city.

“We could not have had two better friends of Tampa, two better benefactors of the city,” Buckhorn said. “Their impact on Tampa is not going to be diminished at all. And we’ll respect their privacy.”