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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Mar. 24, 2006 14 years ago

Coffee Talk

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Domino's founder backs Naples bank: Domino's Pizza founder and Catholic philanthropist Tom Monaghan is behind the formation of a new commercial bank in Naples called Gulf Coast Bank.Changesat RJ Bank?: The chief financial officer at Raymond James Financial Inc. recently disclosed a bit of the internal thinking at the firm regarding one of its best-performing subsidiaries.Manufacturing cell phone messages?: It put Coffee Talk off guard to see Peter Straw as the head of a non-manufacturing company, and one on in Tampa, no less. The Germans are coming: Coffee Talk knows German tourists love Southwest Florida. Apparently, so do investment bankers.Bye-Bye, Bill: Bill Theroux, executive director of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, hoped the major improvements to Manatee Avenue would prove a capstone to his time with the city.Brisk business: Pinellas County's Class A vacancy rate dropped to 12% by the end of 2005, yet the coastal county's average rental rate of $18.92 per square foot is still $2 less than Tampa, according to an analysis of the 2005 commercial real estate market by Randy Smith of GVA Advantis.
by: Adam Hughes Staff Writer

Coffee Talk

+ Domino's founder

backs Naples bank

Domino's Pizza founder and Catholic philanthropist Tom Monaghan is behind the formation of a new commercial bank in Naples called Gulf Coast Bank.

Robert Carney Jr., a veteran banker who most recently was president of the Bank of Naples, will be the bank's president and chief executive officer. State regulators are reviewing the bank's application and it could open later this year. Carney says the bank's initial capitalization will be in the $15 million to $25 million range.

Monaghan, who has seeded Ave Maria University in Immokalee with $250 million, is one of eight Naples investors. Others include Tim Toole, Lou DePrisco, Dick Copeland, Tim Kaiser, Clay Winfield and Paul Roney. Despite Monaghan's link to Ave Maria, the bank's first office will be located east of Interstate 75 in Naples.

Carney says he had never met Monaghan until he received a call from the pizza magnate last year. "In the bank industry you field a lot of calls for opportunities," says Carney, a 22-year veteran banker. "Tom sees it as a good investment."

The bank will focus on small businesses and individuals who invest in real estate.

+ Changes

at RJ Bank?

The chief financial officer at Raymond James Financial Inc. recently disclosed a bit of the internal thinking at the firm regarding one of its best-performing subsidiaries.

Jeffrey P. Julien, speaking at a panel with two other CFOs from Tampa-area public companies, says Raymond James Financial is trying to decide whether to convert Raymond James Bank to a commercial bank charter.

Don't let the name fool you. Raymond James Bank is considered a thrift by regulators. Raymond James Financial went the savings bank route initially because it was easier for the St. Petersburg investment firm to federally insure the excess cash of securities clients across all 50 states.

Now, with Raymond James Bank increasing profit last year by 65%, the corporate parent may trade in the thrift charter so it can expand beyond so-called sweeps accounts for brokerage clients and begin to serve more corporate clients.

Currently with about $1.8 billion in assets, Raymond James Bank could grow into a $5 billion- or $6 billion-asset commercial bank over the next couple of years, according to Julien.

What gives the firm pause is that under U.S. banking regulations, the Raymond James parent would automatically be considered a holding company and subjected to Federal Reserve Bank supervision.

To avoid that requirement, Julien says Raymond James might reorganize its corporate structure.

Julien says 90% of Raymond James Financial's revenue is dependent on the direction of the stock market. The firm desires its revenue to be less driven by securities transactions. "We'd like to be to the point that we have a more predictable stream of business," Julien says.

+ Manufacturing cell phone messages?

It put Coffee Talk off guard to see Peter Straw as the head of a non-manufacturing company, and one on in Tampa, no less.

In Sarasota and Manatee counties, Straw, executive director of the Sarasota/Manatee Area Manufacturers Association, is synonymous with manufacturing. But now he's CEO of AirIt2Me, a fledgling company focused on selling its high-volume cell-phone text-messaging system to businesses and government.

Straw says the Tampa-based company was originally built with the idea of doing opt-in marketing to cell phones, but since then, the company's business model has changed to focus more on selling it as an emergency contact and communication system.

"I started working with them through my consulting business to define its marketplace," Straw told Coffee Talk, "and in so doing I became quite enamored with the possibility of the company."

So he became a shareholder. When previous owner Jean-Bernard Lemal left the CEO position, the board asked Straw to take over.

+ The Germans are coming

Coffee Talk knows German tourists love Southwest Florida. Apparently, so do investment bankers.

Deutsche Bank Securities is now involved in helping two Southwest Florida-based publicly traded companies evaluate whether they should be sold.

On March 16, Bonita Springs-based magazine distributor Source Interlink says it hired Deutsche Bank Securities to "evaluate strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value," a fancy way of saying the company is for sale. The company's stock (symbol SORC) rose 8% on the news to close at $11.82 on March 17.

In January, Fort Myers-based Internet marketer Miva also hired Deutsche Bank Securities to explore alternatives that may include a sale of the company. Despite the announcement, Miva's shares recently traded at $3.85 per share on disappointing 2005 results. The stock has traded as high as $10.98 in the past year.

+ Bye-Bye, Bill

Bill Theroux, executive director of the Bradenton Downtown Development Authority, hoped the major improvements to Manatee Avenue would prove a capstone to his time with the city.

But as his June 1 retirement date nears, that project has hit a significant delay because of funding and planning.

"That's pretty disappointing," Theroux says. "It's been delayed almost two years. It would have connected all the work we've done on 6th Avenue. It sure would have been great way to leave."

Even with that small hitch, Theroux has been instrumental in Bradenton's recent real estate resurgence. He was influential in several projects, including the Village of the Arts, major waterfront development along the former Sandpile parcel and most recently, redevelopment efforts along 14th Street.

The DDA is expected to form a search committee to start looking for Theroux's replacement soon.

+ Brisk business

Pinellas County's Class A vacancy rate dropped to 12% by the end of 2005, yet the coastal county's average rental rate of $18.92 per square foot is still $2 less than Tampa, according to an analysis of the 2005 commercial real estate market by Randy Smith of GVA Advantis.

But Smith warns that Pinellas rental prices might climb this year, since no new office buildings are planned for completion in 2006.

He also pointed out that Moody's Investor Service named the St. Petersburg area one of the "Top 10 Commercial Real Estate Markets in the U.S." The city set a record with $413 in construction permits issued in 2005, Smith says, and the area received the highest ranking in Florida and the Southeast.

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