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Former Bucs star Vincent Jackson found dead

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has launched an investigation into the death of Vincent Jackson, a wide receiver for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2012 to 2016 after beginning his career with the San Diego Chargers. Jackson, 38, was found dead in a room at a Homewood Suites in Brandon on Monday. According to a statement from the sheriff’s office, Jackson had been staying at the hotel since Jan. 11. On Feb. 10, family members reported him missing, and the sheriff’s office located him on Feb. 12. According to the statement, the sheriff’s office carried out a wellness check and then closed the missing person case. Cause of death has yet to be determined, but no signs of trauma were detected. The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office will determine the cause of death. "My heart aches for the many loved ones Vincent Jackson leaves behind, from his wife and children to the Buccaneers nation that adored him," Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister wrote on Twitter. "Mr. Jackson was a devoted man who put his family and community above everything else.”

Attorneys tapped for industry leadership roles

Three attorneys at Tampa-based labor and employment law firm Johnson Jackson PLLC have been named to legal industry leadership positions. Eric Jackson, a founding shareholder, has been appointed president of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Federal Bar Association, while associate Ashley Gallagher will serve as the chapter’s secretary. She has also been named to the National Federal Bar Association’s Younger Lawyers’ Division board of directors and will serve as co-chair of the publications committee. Also, associate attorney Beatriz Miranda has been appointed to serve as co-chair of the Hillsborough Association of Women Lawyers’ Mentoring Program in 2021.

Biotech firm working on Covid-19 vaccine raises $20 million

Oragenics Inc., a Tampa biotech company that’s working on a Covid-19 vaccine, has raised $20 million via sale of stock that was facilitated by Alliance Global Partners, a New York investment and advisory firm. The company also received $1.9 million from the exercise of common stock warrants. According to a press release, Oragenics has given a notice for the redemption of all outstanding shares of the company’s Series C, non-convertible, preferred stock, which President and CEO Alan Joslyn said will raise an additional $5.6 million. “We are delighted that we were able to raise capital to fund our operations through a number of anticipated key value-creating milestones towards the initiation of the Phase 2 clinical trial of our SARS CoV-2 vaccine, Terra CoV-2,” Joslyn stated in the release.

Here’s how much the new owner paid for the Hilton Carillon

An investment partnership paid just under $31.7 million for the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park. The hotel, a popular meeting venue, sold on Jan. 28, but the sales price was not disclosed until a deed for the property was filed Feb. 12 in Pinellas County. The new owner is LAH SPH LLC, a joint venture between Lubert-Adler Real Estate Funds and Hersha Hospitality Management, according to Connect Florida, a commercial real estate news publication. Both companies are based in Philadelphia. HHM operates 135 full-service, select service and extended-stay hotels across the United States. The former owner of the Hilton Carillon, Hobbs & Curry Family Limited Partnership in Fort Smith, Arkansas, was represented in the deal by The Plasencia Group in Tampa. The Hilton Carillon opened in 2006 and has 227 rooms and 16,000 square feet of meeting space.

Firefighter in hot water over theft of Covid-19 vaccine

A St. Petersburg Police Department investigation this week revealed that a city firefighter stole a dose of Covid-19 vaccine. According to a news release, St. Petersburg Fire Rescue Lt. Duane Zagorsky, a 15-year veteran of the fire department, was eligible to receive one dose of the vaccine in January but took two so he could give one to a family member. Zagorsky, the release stated, could be charged with misdemeanor petit theft if he does not complete the Pinellas County Adult Pre-Arrest Diversion Program. An internal investigation is also under way and could result in additional disciplinary measures for Zagorsky.

Rays welcome back pitcher Chris Archer on one-year deal

Former All-Star pitcher Chris Archer, who spent seven seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2018, is returning to the team on a one-year, $6.5 million contract. Archer, 32, was a free agent after missing most of the 2020 season with a neck injury. His signing brings the Rays’ 40-man roster to full capacity as the team gears up for spring training. During his highly successful first stint with the Rays, Archer was named to the American League All-Star team in 2015 and 2017, and he pitched for Team USA in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He ranks highly among the franchise leaders in strikeouts, starts, innings pitched and wins.

St. Pete City Council approves expanded local produce sales

An ordinance to expand opportunities for the production and sale of locally grown produce won final approval in the St. Petersburg City Council Thursday. The measure is designed to address the issue of food insecurity in the city while providing economic benefits for residents interested in growing and selling their own food.  Council members gave a preliminary OK to the ordinance in December. St. Petersburg is one of the first cities to adopt this type of ordinance, said Council member Brandi Gabbard, just before the council voted. All council members present voted in favor.  

Toronto Raptors will finish season in Tampa

Tampa will be the home of the Toronto Raptors for the remainder of the 2020-21 season, the NBA team announced on Thursday. Because of Covid-19 travel restrictions between Canada and the United States, the Raptors relocated to Tampa in November and have been playing their “home” games at Amalie Arena. “Florida has been really welcoming to us and we’re so grateful for the hospitality we’ve found in Tampa and at Amalie,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri stated in a news release. “We’re living in a city of champions, and we intend to carry on the tradition of winning for our new friends and fans here.”

Jesuit High gets $1 million gift

The CEO of an Ohio real estate firm is donating about $1.1 million to Jesuit High School in Tampa. Steve Wathen, CEO of Equity/ECS, earmarked proceeds from a corporate real estate transaction to Jesuit, a private, all-male Catholic high school. In a news release, Wathen cited Jesuit's commitment to students, including about $2.9 million in financial assistance this year to 40 percent of the student body. Equity/ECS, founded by Wathen in Columbus, Ohio in 1987, expanded to the Tampa Bay are more than 15 years ago, and has a significant presence in the region. 

Seedfunders launches podcast

Founder Dave Chitester is looking to grow Seedfunders presence on-line to keep with pace with the early-stage investment group's off-line expansion.  With new operations in Orlando and Miami, Chitester hopes the Seedfunders podcast will reach the influx of new potential angel investors that are relocating to Florida, and plug them into the growing startup ecosystem. Episode 1 of the weekly podcast is live on the Seedfunders website now. 

Tampa tech firm sells digital inventory marketing division

That's Us Technologies in Tampa has sold one of its divisions, LotVantage, to Digital Air Strike, a consumer engagement tech firm in Scottsdale, Arizona. Financial terms were not disclosed. LotVantage is a Software-as-a-Service company that enables auto, RV, marine and powersports dealerships to merchandise their inventory through advanced targeting and data analytics. The acquisition supports Digital Air Strike's strategy of leveraging technology to improve the online consumer retail experience while helping retailers gain efficiencies and greater return on investment, the company said in a news release. The sale will allow That's Us Technologies to focus on another subsidiary, ThumbStopper, which provides organic social media syndication for brands that sell through channel partners, a separate news release said.  

State senator files bill that would abolish regional transit agency

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, has filed a bill that, if passed, would abolish the Tampa Bay Regional Transit Authority. Established in 2007, TBARTA was formed to help plan, develop, fund, implement and operate a regional transit system in Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas counties. Its governing board is made up of mayors, county commissioners, gubernatorial appointees and representatives from municipal transit bodies such as the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. Brandes’ bill, SB 1130, would see the agency shut down as of July 1 and its assets distributed among the region’s various local governments.

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