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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Dec. 12, 2003 16 years ago

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

This week's items: FNB joins Big BoardThe Hillsborough Clerk of the Court has quickly quashed an unauthorized interpretation of the recent state Supreme Court order Tampa developer Jim Shapiro joines Hall of Fame

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

FNB joins Big Board

First National Bankshares of Florida Inc., which is being spun off from FNB Corp., debuts on the New York Stock Exchange this week.

The stock will initially trade under the ticker symbol FLB on a "when issued" basis, starting Dec. 17. Shares of the Naples-based subsidiary of FNB won't start regular trading until at least next month, when all the regulatory approvals for the split of FNB's Florida and Pennsylvania operations are expected to be in.

With the division, FNB will have $4.6 billion in assets in Pennsylvania and $3.8 billion in Florida. FNB anticipates Florida assets to increase substantially through branch expansion and acquisition of other financial institutions.

FNB, which is moving its headquarters to Hermitage, Pa., spun off the Florida operations to take advantage of the higher valuations that the First National unit is expected to achieve for its new issue by serving the Sunshine State.

The western Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio areas where FNB also does business aren't growing nearly as rapidly.

FNB shares have been listed on Nasdaq under the symbol FBAN. The parent's new ticker symbol will be FNB. Thanks to the split, FNB expects the combined cash dividend for the two stocks to rise about 25% in 2004.

"We believe that the market quality of the NYSE will be of significant value, improving the visibility and liquidity of our stock for investors of both companies once the spin-off is completed," FNB President and CEO Gary T. Tice says in a news release.

Incorrect interpretations

The Hillsborough Clerk of the Court has quickly quashed an unauthorized interpretation of the recent state Supreme Court order that prohibits access to certain court records across the Internet.

Earlier in the week, a technician in the clerk's management information services department told the Review all access to the clerk's online, paid-subscriber court index would cease as of Jan. 1. Well, that's not true, says Helene Marks, legal counsel to Clerk of the Court Richard Ake. She says Ake and his staff are particularly concerned now with interpreting the exceptions listed in the court order.

"The concern that we have is in the second to last paragraph in the order," she says. "It says any existing Internet or dial-up service, including subscriptions, should be terminated as soon as possible but no sooner than Jan. 1. But to read that as a wholesale blanket statement negates the need for any exception."

The goal is simple, in Marks' view: Protect citizens from identity theft and unwarranted intrusions by limiting the release of confidential personal information such as Social Security numbers.

So expect further delays in any effort by the clerk to make images of court documents available across the Internet. But it doesn't mean the clerk intends to scrap eventual plans to make the court index available across the Internet.

"We're in the process of trying to get as much clarification as we can so we are comfortable that we're compliant with the Supreme Court order," Marks says. "We are in the process of examining this and trying to clarify this to our satisfaction so we're totally adherent. It appears a wholesale cessation to the transfer of information is not what's sought but protection of the information that's transferred is sought."

Distinguished guests

Naysayers spoke loudly in 1986, when Tampa developer Jim Shapiro proposed the development of more than 1 million square feet of mixed-use office-industrial space on a then-isolated piece of property near Oldsmar.

"You want to build a business park in Oldsmar? Are you sick?" Shapiro attributed jokingly to long-time friend Russ Sampson, the 2003 president of the Tampa Bay chapter of the National Association of Industrial Office Property.

Now the Tri-County Business Park serves one of the Gulf Coast region's fastest growing communities, Sampson told the 235 real estate professionals and guests who attended the nonprofit trade group's recent annual awards program at the Wyndham Harbour Island Hotel.

Out of respect for his contribution to the local real estate community, the trade group's board of directors picked Shapiro as its 2003 Hall of Fame selection. He joins a select group that includes Tampa Bay area developers Joe Taggart, Al Hoffman, Mel Sembler and Dick Beard.

Shapiro gave particular credit to his financial partner - his wife, Jill Shapiro - who "never took a dividend or a dime of interest."

Tribute to ex-bank board member

When AmSouth Bancorp signed a letter of intent to buy Bank of Tampa in 1994, S.C. "Bud" Bexley Jr. was among the directors of the latter who supported the deal.

But a rebellion among Bank of Tampa stockholders killed the $27 million-plus sale in 1995. They didn't care for a decline in AmSouth stock, attributed in part to losses from derivatives, during the intervening year that had reduced the value of the all-stock transaction for them.

Bexley, who died Dec. 2 at the age of 73, took the setback in stride. "My position now is the position of the stockholders," Bexley told The Tampa Tribune after the January 1995 vote. "I work at the pleasure of the stockholders."

Bank of Tampa remains independent and President A. Gerald Divers, who opposed the AmSouth takeover back in the 1990s, says it's not for sale. But Divers has lost a feisty director emeritus in Bexley.

The bank paid tribute to Bexley by buying a memorial advertisement among the Tribune's stock tables in the newspaper's Dec. 10 edition.

Since leaving the Bank of Tampa board, the Pasco County rancher had been busy this year arranging the development of about half of his family's 14,000-acre tract around Land O' Lakes.

While loyal to friends, Bexley was protective of his property rights and occasionally quarreled with environmentalists concerned about Pasco's speedy land development.

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