Turns out, Jeff Vinik was one of the secret Times investors the whole time

The Tampa Bay Lightning owner issued a statement Friday admitting to his role in helping the Tampa Bay Times refinance a large loan.

click to enlarge Vinik, left, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn pose with the Tampa Bay Lightning bug. - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
Vinik, left, and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn pose with the Tampa Bay Lightning bug.

After two weeks of speculation and scrutiny over the identities of four mystery investors who chipped in on $12 million to help the Tampa Bay Times refinance its loan, developer and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has said he is one of them. (Disclaimer: CL and the Lightning are partners in the upcoming event, Bolts Brew Fest.)

Through a spokeswoman on Friday he issued a statement announcing his role as one of the eight parties that make up the group Florida's Best Newspaper Partners (FBN), a name that's a nod to the paper's slogan.

“I am happy to confirm that I am part of the investor group, FBN Partners, which recently formed to support the Tampa Bay Times. The Times is a critical local institution and a voice for our community. As Tampa Bay continues to grow and emerge as one of the most significant metropolitan areas in the southeast, I believe that it is important to have a strong, locally owned and operated newspaper, with the resources necessary to retain its independent voice and place as one of the nation’s best,” his statement read.

Vinik, who has invested in the redevelopment of the Channelside area into a downtown hub recently christened Water Street (and has been a notable Rick Scott donor), was among several area billionaires speculated as one of the possible benefactors. Bill Edwards, a billionaire developer based in St. Pete, was also thought to be on that list, but he shut down those rumors last week.

Earlier this week, we wrote about the potential ethical issues with having the identities of those who invested their money in keeping a newspaper afloat shielded from the public, especially if they have an interest in how the paper covers their projects. Times CEO Paul Tash declined comment, but had said in his own column announcing the deal and to the Poynter Institute that the deal would have no bearing on how the paper covers certain issues.

It's unclear whether the identities of the remaining three mystery investors will come out.

In addition to Vinik, the list of investors whose identities have been revealed is made up of Tash and his wife Karen, Frank and Carol Morsani, developer Ted Couch and Washington Redskins owner Robert Rothman.

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