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  • | 10:46 p.m. January 6, 2011
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COVER UPDATE

Being retired doesn't mean John H. Sykes is any less busy. Although he became chairman emeritus of Sykes Enterprises Inc. six years ago, he has remained active in Tampa Bay area business circles.


During the past year, Sykes has watched his latest venture, JHS Capital Advisors, flourish in the face of a protracted recession. The new asset management firm, formed following the acquisition of Pointe Capital Inc., has moved its offices to downtown Tampa, where Sykes' original technical support company is also headquartered.


The point of launching JHS Capital, he says, is to return ethics, integrity, transparency and full disclosure to the financial services industry. He aims to recruit 500 advisors over the next five years, mainly seasoned veterans who are disenchanted with selling house-brand securities instead of steering clients toward investments that are right for them.


Given the lengthy recession and its aftermath, Sykes says investors at all levels, not just the wealthy, can use a higher level of service and attention. He believes clients may be more willing to pay fees for managing expenses such as credit cards, college tuition and mortgage payments.


“We're not going to take anybody just for the sake of growing revenues,” Sykes told the Gulf Coast Business Review during a rare interview published April 23.


This was certainly a year of triumphs and pitfalls for Sykes, who is widely considered Tampa's equivalent of Warren Buffett. His spacious office is inside a private hangar at Tampa International Airport, where he keeps two Gulfstream jets.


He took two significant hits in 2010, with Tampa-based GunnAllen Financial Inc. being shut down by regulators in March, three months after he resigned as its chairman. Sykes Enterprises' shares tumbled below $12 on the Nasdaq exchange in August after a rough quarterly earnings report, but have since rebounded to $18.


With his name already on the University of Tampa's business school, the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values is well on its way to completion. Sykes and his wife, Susan, committed $20 million to the multi-denominational center, which will feature a 75-foot music tower and an organ with 3,184 pipes.


Sykes says his affinity to UT, which has 6,500 students (a fraction of the University of South Florida's enrollment) has more to do with its downtown Tampa location than being a liberal arts college. Built around the historic Tampa Bay Hotel, UT was established in 1933, only a few years before Sykes was born and two decades ahead of the remote USF campus on Fowler Avenue.


“There is no great city without a great university in its midst,” he says. “It's important that we build the university in the right way that represents our city.”


Sykes remains a staunch supporter of continuing efforts to revive Tampa's central business district. Sykes Enterprises renewed its marquee lease at Rivergate Tower, and its namesake believes the Tampa Bay Rays should move its stadium somewhere nearby.


“It should be built in a downtown environment, and it should be built in Tampa,” he says. “What it comes down to is not the best interests of Tampa or St. Petersburg, but those of the baseball team.”


Sykes and his son, Chuck, were both big advocates of the effort to build a light-rail system in Tampa. While a proposed penny sales tax hike in Hillsborough County failed during the Nov. 2 election, the push for commuter trains remains on track.

 

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