Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jeff Vinik Adds Bill Gates' Name to Channelside Redevelopment

The big headlines tomorrow morning will be Bill Gates joining forces with Lightning owner Jeff Vinik to rebuild Tampa!

Although, it's just Gates' venture capitalist company, Cascade Investment, reports the Tampa Trib:
“They are taking a leap of faith,” said Tod Leiweke, Vinik’s top executive with the Lightning and the person in charge of his redevelopment plans. “This is not for the feint of heart. But they see our passion, and they see Jeff as a unique guy.”

Leiweke did not disclose how much Cascade will invest in the project, but he said the overall goal is to make the whole district a profitable project, including residential buildings, new offices, likely a new grocery store and an overall walking neighborhood.
The deal between Vinik and Gates did not come together from any personal connection between the two, Leiweke said, though he characterized Vinik as a “rock star” in the investment world, with a well-known reputation. Cascade saw interest in the project, Leiweke said, and about six months ago, executives from Cascade visited Tampa and they’ve been working behind the scenes ever since.

Though Cascade will be an investor, Vinik will still retain majority control of the project.
Basically, more money will be available to Vinik to build his perfect vision of a downtown.  Although, as a hedge fund manager and pro franchise owner, its not like he was hurting for money.

So the "big" news isn't really about the tangibles; its about the intangibles:
As for implications for the Rays' hopes of a downtown Tampa stadium, this probably doesn't mean much either, except for the fact that there could now be less opportunity for Vinik to take a personal loss "for the good of the town."

With $1B to play with, would Gates/Vinik drop 1/3 of it on a new stadium?  Unlikely, if profits are a priority.

It could mean great things for the city of Tampa if the Microsoft founder starts lending his name and leverage to lure big tech companies into the city, but I'd probably put my money on Gates being a mostly-silent partner, just as Vinik is as a minority owner of the Red Sox. 

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