Lightning Owner Suspends Plans To Take Over Channelside; Legal Issues To Blame
Lightning Owner Jeff Vinik and his business partners yesterday made a "shocking announcement" that they were "suspending their efforts to take control" of the Channelside Bay Plaza, according to Jamal Thalji of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. For the past nine months, Vinik's group "has waited" for the Anglo Irish Bank to "negotiate some kind of deal to get [previous plaza owner Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp.] to give up" the right of first refusal, freeing up the title. Then Vinik's group, Metis Channelside could "finalize agreements with the Irish bank and the Tampa Port Authority to take over Channelside." All of that is "now on hold for the foreseeable future." Lightning CEO & Minority Owner Tod Leiweke said, "There's a significant legal issue that we've just not been able to overcome and in some ways our stepping back helps it get resolved." The Vinik group "hopes that by suspending its plans for Channelside, that will encourage the bank and Ashkenazy to resolve their issues or risk scuttling the deal for good." Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said, "I don't blame Jeff (Vinik) for stepping away and I'm hopeful that he'll be patient until we can rid this deal of this cancer." Leiweke said that Vinik "sees a 'bullish' future for Tampa and is dedicated to revitalizing the Channel District." Thalji notes Vinik has an "interest in partnerships that own land around the Times Forum, groups that in the past two years have paid $16.3 million for 12 acres across from the arena." While Vinik's partners are "still developing their vision for those 12 recently acquired acres, Leiweke said those plans are not dependent on controlling Channelside" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 10/23).