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Corporate Report: Oct. 25

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  • | 9:15 a.m. October 25, 2013
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St. Petersburg's Heritage Insurance hires United Property president
St. Petersburg-based insurer Heritage Insurance has hired Mel Russell as its new chief underwriting officer, executive vice president and director of sales and marketing. Russell has 36 years of experience in the property and casualty business, and most recently served as president of United Property & Casualty Insurance Co. (UPC Insurance).

In 1999, Russell was a founding employee at UPC Insurance, where he served as chief underwriting officer, corporate secretary, head of marketing, and eventually president. He is credited with taking UPC from a startup company in 1999 to the major regional homeowners company it is today, and guiding its expansion into seven additional states.

“Our management team was already extremely experienced, but adding an industry icon like Mel Russell is a huge win for Heritage,” CEO Richard Widdicombe says in a press release. “Not only will Mel help provide another perspective for strategic decisions regarding our underwriting process, but he will continue to build upon the outstanding sales success we've seen thus far.”

Bi-Lo Holdings rebranding Sweetbay stores as Winn-Dixie in 2014
Bi-Lo Holdings LLC, the Jacksonville-based parent company of the BI-LO and Winn-Dixie supermarket chains, has announced plans to convert Sweetbay supermarkets over to its Winn-Dixie brand when it finishes buying Sweetbay owner Delhaize Group. The company says it also plans to convert Delhaize's Reid's stores to BI-LO, but will leave most of the Harveys stores in place.

Officials for Bi-Lo Holdings say the branding changes were needed to reduce the overlapping footprints between the Sweetbay, Reid's and Winn-Dixie brands.

Bi-Lo Holdings expects to retain all store-level associates within the stores being acquired.

In May, Bi-Lo Holdings and Delhaize entered a definitive agreement for Bi-Lo Holdings to acquire all of the stores in the Sweetbay, Harveys and Reid's supermarket chains from Delhaize. The transaction is scheduled to close in the first quarter, and the conversion is expected to start shortly thereafter.

Court finds against Odyssey Marine for $1.07 million in court costs
Tampa-based Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. has received an order from the U.S. District Court that the company is legally liable for $1.07 million to cover the attorneys' fees of the Spanish government. The case involved the “Black Swan” shipwreck, and Spain had requested $3.3 million in fees.
Odyssey Marine says it is considering an appeal.

“Although the award is only one-third of the amount requested by Spain, it's disappointing that the court was apparently swayed by statements presented by Spain's witnesses during the merits portion of the case that we believe could have been proven false during cross examination of those witnesses in a trial,” Greg Stemm, Odyssey CEO, says in a press release. “The court's findings do provide guidance in establishing considerations for dealing with shipwrecks in international waters in the future.”

However, Stemm says, the company is applying lessons it learned from the case and it was an aberration that will not have an adverse effect on the company's strategic plan going forward.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers sign sponsorship deal with Level 3
Broomfield, Colo.-based communications services company Level 3 Communications Inc. has signed a multi-year agreement with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to serve as the team's Internet network service provider at both Raymond James Stadium and the club's headquarters, One Buccaneer Place.

“The addition of Level 3 as a team sponsor highlights the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' passion for innovation,” Buccaneers Co-Chairman Bryan Glazer says in a press release. “We have always been dedicated to forward-thinking initiatives, and Level 3 will provide our team with the technology necessary to continue as league leaders.”

xG Technology delivers first xMax broadband networking equipment
Sarasota-based xG Technology Inc. has completed the first delivery of its xMax comprehensive cognitive radio system. The company shipped all the equipment required to fulfill a $155,000 purchase order to rural broadband provider Walnut Hill Telephone Co.

The order, which was placed in November 2012, was conditional upon the Federal Communications Commission certifying the equipment. The shipment includes six xMax xAP Access Points, 48 xMod Mobile Hotspot devices and one xMSC Mobile Switching Center. The order is the first of a previously announced $35 million xMax network equipment and services backlog to be completed.

xMax is a fixed and mobile broadband network solution that uses specialized radios to manage both the licensed and unlicensed wireless spectrum.

White Cloud Electronic Cigarettes partners with USF for research study
Tarpon Springs-based White Cloud Electronic Cigarettes has signed a research partnership agreement with the University of South Florida's marketing department.

As part of the agreement, marketing faculty at USF's College of Business will conduct a study looking at the perceptions, barriers and responses of smokers moving to electronic cigarettes.

The company says its goal with the research study is to gain insight into the new segment of consumers who are adopting electronic cigarettes instead of smoking. The research conducted by USF's College of Business will encompass both qualitative and quantitative consumer studies through focus groups, interviews and surveys of adult smokers.

“From a marketing researcher's perspective, this is an interesting time in the life of a product,” Dr. Anand Kumar, associate professor and chair of the marketing department, says in a press release. “The e-cigarette product category is seeing an explosive growth right now. It is not clear whether this growth is the result of rapid adoption by innovators and early adopters that might soon level off or whether there is more widespread adoption by smokers. There is a lot of interest in understanding consumer motivations underlying adoption of this product and limited research that has been carried out on this aspect of the e-cigarette marketplace.”

Pennsylvania Dental Insurer hires HealthPlan Services
HealthPlan Services of Tampa has reached a strategic partnership with Harrisburg, Pa.-based United Concordia Dental to administer the company's dental plans. HealthPlan Services will offer the firm its Go-To-Exchange platform, which handles the technical and administrative duties needed to link a business to public or private insurance exchanges.

United Concordia Dental provides dental health insurance to more than 6 million members across the country through a network of 93,381 dentists at 244,979 access points.

HealthPlan Services will also offer United Concordia sales and customer support services.

Hann Powersboats sell boats to patrol Gulf of Guinea
M&C Marine Operations LLC, an Abuja, Nigeria-based maritime logistics and support company, has ordered two Hann 40 Peacemakers fast patrol/escort boats, built by Sarasota-based Hann Powerboats, to patrol the Gulf of Guinea for pirates. Hann Powerboats says the boats can economically travel at 27 to 35 knots and sprint at more than 46 knots. They can also hold up to 5,000 pounds and execute a 360-degree turn in about 20 seconds.


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