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Coffee Talk (Tampa)

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  • | 6:00 p.m. October 14, 2005
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Coffee Talk (Tampa)

Quite possibly a big deal

Crescent Brookdale Associates LLC has assigned its ground leases in Tampa's Corporate Center at International Plaza Westshore to a European investment trust. The transfer gives the newly formed trust control over nearly 1 million square feet of Class A office space in the 15-acre corporate park adjacent to Tampa International Airport.

Details of the transfer, disclosed in a ground lease assignment recorded Sept. 20 in Hillsborough County, remain shrouded by what one source familiar with the deal described as a wall of confidentiality agreements. No one at Crescent Brookdale - a joint venture of Atlanta's Brookdale Group LLC and Charlotte's Crescent Resources LLC - or the investment trust would talk about the deal.

Hillsborough mortgage documents, however, refer to what appears to be a much larger asset transfer between Crescent Brookdale and the investment trust.

Atlanta's Carter Real Estate bought the assets for the investment trust, confirms John Carter, who runs the firm's Tampa office. He would not talk about the deal, referring all inquires to the New York office of Eurohypo AG, Germany's 10th largest bank and the transaction financier. The bank did not respond to a request for comment.

The bank financed a multi-state mortgage that encumbers real property valued at about $529 million in Tampa, Orlando and outside Florida, mortgage documents show. The mortgage encumbers not only the Corporate Center ground leases but also three Class A office buildings in Tampa's Hidden River Corporate Center, three Class A office buildings in Orlando's Central Florida Research Park and several office buildings in Atlanta.

Couldn't stay away

It took only a matter of months for FNB Corp. to decide that the slow-growth Northeast maybe isn't where its entire future lies.

The Hermitage, Pa.-based bank holding company is opening two loan offices in Florida, including one in Sarasota. It was just last year that FNB spun off a Florida subsidiary, which Cincinnati's Fifth Third Bancorp scooped up in January.

"Of the many attractive markets in the country where we might have opened successful loan offices, this Florida market offers a unique opportunity," says Stephen Gurgovits, FNB's president and chief executive.

The $5.7 billion-asset company is re-branding its First National Bank of Pennsylvania as simply First National Bank for the purposes of opening the commercial loan production and mortgage origination offices in Sarasota and Orlando.

Sarasota resident Joseph "Jody" Hudgins, who used to head FNB's West Coast Guaranty Bank, is back to run the company's latest Florida foray. Hudgins is recruiting to staff additional loan offices in Fort Myers, Naples and Tampa.

Good deed

The state attorney's office in Hillsborough County is helping some colleagues in need.

State Attorney Mark Ober and his staffers collected $5,640 to send to two Mississippi prosecutor's offices in jurisdictions hard hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Karen Stanley, chief assistant state attorney for Ober, says most of the cash was raised from employees who paid to wear jeans to work on days when they weren't in court.

In addition, Stanley says Ober staffers gathered together two truckloads of donated bedding, clothing and non-perishable food for the Mississippi prosecutor's offices. One Ober employee volunteered to drive the first truck and the spouse of another made the second trip.

Open, again

The New Orleans-based law firm of Phelps Dunbar LLP reopened its Gulfport, Miss., office on Sept. 26 following a temporary closure by Hurricane Katrina.

"This is a great first step towards being part of restoring service to a community that has been just devastated by Hurricane Katrina," James G. Wyly, managing partner of the firm's Gulfport office, says in a news release.

The 250-lawyer firm, which has an office in Tampa, is "dedicated to seeing that this culturally unique and vitally important region rebuilds and rebounds even stronger than before," according to the statement. Phelps Dunbar's New Orleans location remains closed. Those lawyers continue to work from the firm's Baton Rouge and Houston offices.

Clerk to address women lawyers' group

Hillsborough County Clerk of Court Pat Frank will discuss issues and concerns facing her office at an Oct. 18 luncheon at the Tampa Club, 101 E. Kennedy Blvd. Frank is the guest speaker at the 11:45 a.m. meeting of the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers.

Economist talks down real estate

Real estate probably has had its run and will slow nationally, says David Jones, chairman of Investors' Security Trust Co. in Fort Myers.

"We may have peaked in June-that's the bottom line," Jones told a gathering of the Real Estate Investment Society in Fort Myers recently. Jones, a longtime Wall Street economist and friend of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, started a Fort Myers trust company in January 2004.

Real estate is a regional business and Jones says Florida is in a good position to weather any downturn, though he said once-hot areas such as Denver have seen prices level off. But if the Fed raises short-term rates much above 4.5% from the current 3.75%, all bets are off. If that happens, Jones says a recession is likely.

New Fed chief to the rescue

Must President George W. Bush choose a more accommodative Fed chairman for his own political survival? That's what Pinellas Park bank analyst Richard X. Bove thinks.

More interest rate increases are almost guaranteed through January, when Alan Greenspan steps down. Bove is among those who think Greenspan is overdoing the war on inflation.

"If the Fed holds to its inflation fighting demeanor and ignores economic events the Republicans may lose control of the Senate in 2006 and Mr. Bush will become a lame-duck president," says Bove.

Bove cites the recent Fed-bashing by cable news commentator Larry Kudlow. The GOP surrogates need to take a deep breath, thinks Bove.

Karl Rove, if he doesn't get indicted in the CIA leak case, will see to it that Bush picks a Greenspan replacement who stops the rate hikes and keeps working Americans employed – and voting Republican.


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