From Raymond James to Fun
© St. Petersburg Times, published October 4, 2000
One thing Huntington A. James knows for sure: Fun Holdings Inc. won't resemble his grandfather's company -- or anybody else's company for that matter.
"We're going to create a culture that's unlike anything the bay area has ever seen," promised the 32-year-old offspring of the family that created Raymond James Financial Inc. "We're only accepting projects that are fun, of interest to us and cutting-edge technology. We are working on projects that are going to change the technology landscape in the area."
James, whose friends call him Hunt, is starting a Tampa company that he says will bring together some big names in the high-tech industry both locally and nationally. Fun Holdings will help turn brainstorms into businesses, working with developing companies in exchange for an equity stake.
To get it off the ground, James is scaling back his responsibilities at Raymond James Financial, the St. Petersburg brokerage his grandfather, Robert A. James, founded and his father, Thomas A. James, still heads as chairman. The three men share the middle name Allen, spelled three different ways.
"I've always been a technology geek and I couldn't do the kind of things I wanted to do at Raymond James," he said. Raymond James "has plenty of good people to do the ins and outs of the business every day."
His partners in the new venture include Charlotte Baker and Vince Rocca, former executives of 2nd Century Telecommunications. Others have not gone public yet.
"They're working on their severance deals," James said. "A lot of people are coming out of technology companies where they've cashed out and don't need to work, but they have great ideas and have incredible contacts."
Fun Holdings has leased office space in the Channelside District in downtown Tampa and has a contract to buy a brick warehouse on N 11th Street with an indoor inline skating course.
James declined to reveal the source of Fun Holdings' financing, but said he isn't putting up the cash. He said he has done some "angel funding" of technology deals in the past.
"Funding will not be an issue," he said. "Everything we've got in the works, we've already got people wanting to put money into it."
He said the company has about 30 projects under consideration.
James plans to continue working part time at Raymond James, where he is a director, vice president and major shareholder. He owns 563,816 shares, worth about $18-million, according to the most recent proxy statement. Most of the shares are in a trust created by his grandfather.
Putting Raymond James' name on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' stadium was Hunt James' idea, so relationships with the Bucs and the Super Bowl Task Force are among his favorite duties.
He said he also loves Raymond James' culture, even if it isn't quite as free-spirited as what he has in mind for Fun Holdings.
"I want to make sure that what my grandfather started and my dad grew, that that culture continues," he said. "That'd be my primary goal."
James said he also thinks Raymond James and Fun Holdings can work together to their mutual benefit. Some of the technology Fun Holdings is developing can be applied at Raymond James, he said. He also expects Raymond James will supply investment banking services to the companies affiliated with Fun Holdings.
James studied psychology and philosophy at Emory University and got an MBA from the University of Virginia. He did a stint with Smith Barney in New York before coming to work at Raymond James in 1994. Most recently, he has headed the private client group, working with wealthy individuals. His younger brother, Courtland, 26, also works at Raymond James.
James has been so busy with the new company, he said he has had to put another pet project on hold, delaying his dream of building a marina in south Tampa.
"I've always been shocked by how poorly utilized Tampa's waterfront is," he said. "We will definitely get around to the marina project, but that will be more of a special interest, personal project. The stuff we're working on now is a much higher margin type business."
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