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Jeff Stibel, left, former president of Web.com Group Inc., has partnered with Kobe Bryant, who retired from the NBA in April, in a $100 million venture capital fund.
Jax Daily Record Monday, Aug. 29, 201612:00 PM EST

Former Web.com president joins Kobe Bryant in $100M venture capital fund

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by: Mark Basch Contributing Writer

The former president of Web.com Group Inc. has joined with a former basketball superstar to launch a $100 million venture capital fund.

Jeff Stibel, who left Jacksonville-based Web.com in 2009, partnered with Kobe Bryant, who retired from the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers in April, to form Bryant Stibel.

The fund was actually started in 2013 and has already made 15 investments, but the pair kept the partnership under wraps.

Now that Bryant has retired, they decided to make a public announcement about the firm last week.

Stibel’s biography lists him as the former CEO of Web.com, but that was a different Web.com. It was an Atlanta-based company that merged into Jacksonville-based Website Pros Inc. in 2007.

Stibel came to Jacksonville after the merger as president of Website Pros, with David Brown remaining chairman and CEO of the company.

A few months after the merger in early 2008, Website Pros changed its name to Web.com.

Stibel resigned from Web.com in September 2009 to focus on other business opportunities and work on a book. Most recently, he served as vice chairman of consulting firm Dun & Bradstreet.

According to news reports last week, Stibel and Bryant met through mutual friends and pooled their money, with no other investors so far. They did not say how much each contributed to the $100 million investment pool.

The Bryant Stibel website says the fund “combines the creative vision of Kobe Bryant, one of the world’s most well-known and respected sports icons, with Jeff Stibel, a proven market-driven operator and entrepreneur.”

The fund is focusing on “the convergence of technology, media and data, as well as in industries such as sports and wellness,” it said.

TIAA leaves EverBank questions unanswered

As TIAA works to complete its acquisition of Jacksonville-based EverBank Financial Corp., top executives of the financial services company are leaving some questions unanswered for now.

CEO Roger Ferguson and Kathie Andrade, chief executive of retail financial services for TIAA, held a town hall meeting for EverBank employees at the Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts recently.

EverBank posted a transcript of the session in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The TIAA executives got a wide range of questions, including one that non-EverBank personnel have been asking ever since TIAA announced its $2.5 billion acquisition agreement three weeks ago: what’s going to happen to the name of Jacksonville’s football stadium?

The merger plan calls for TIAA’s bank subsidiary to merge into EverBank, with the bank maintaining its headquarters in Jacksonville. However, they have not decided on the name for the merged bank, so it’s impossible to say what will happen to the naming rights for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ stadium.

“We are going to be very thoughtful about the brand and again follow a formal process to do an assessment and come up with a recommendation that I think best serves all of us,” Andrade said.

TIAA has already decided because of the bank’s headquarters in Jacksonville, “we will be relocating some of our banking folks here and we’ll continue to have our employees located in other parts of the country as well,” Andrade said.

TIAA’s bank is headquartered in St. Louis, with additional operations in Charlotte and New York, she said.

However, TIAA has still has not said if any EverBank employees may be impacted by the merger.

“I think that given the maturity of our organizations, there’s much greater complementary capabilities as opposed to overlap. Having said that, there’s a formal process that we’ll go through and we’ll identify where we have, you know, both revenue as well as cost synergies, but we’re very excited because we think that this represents a significant opportunity for most people,” Andrade said.

In response to another employee comment that EverBank is a “pretty big deal” in Jacksonville, Ferguson said he recognized its importance to the community.

“We are really aware, as you say, EverBank is a pretty big deal in this city. All of our locations are really good citizens in the local community,” he said.

“We are very focused on financial literacy, public schools and the fact that we announced that Jacksonville will be the headquarters should be interpreted as we want to continue the path of being a good corporate citizen that EverBank has shown here in Jacksonville,” Ferguson said.

EverBank dealĀ bodes well for Atlantic Coast Financial Corp.

The EverBank deal has positive implications for another Jacksonville-based banking company, Atlantic Coast Financial Corp., according to the only analyst who follows ACFC.

Bob Ramsey of FBR & Co. said in a research note last week that TIAA is paying a price equal to 21.7 times EverBank’s earnings per share for the last 12 months, compared to an average price of 18.2 times earnings for the average Southeastern bank deal in the past year.

It suggests buyers will pay a premium for Florida banks, and Atlantic Coast Financial is one of the few Florida-based banks still standing.

“We believe that increasing scarcity value and recent transactions bode well for ACFC’s valuation,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey raised his earnings estimates for ACFC in part because of expected fee income from a new program making loans guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.

“This new line of business is expected to generate at least $1.5 million to $2 million in fee income once it is ramped next year,” he said.

“In the second quarter, ACFC originated a total of $5.1 million of SBA and USDA loans, compared to $600,000 in the year-ago period, and the company described its pipeline as strong looking into 2017,” he said.

Ramsey maintains an “outperform” rating on ACFC’s stock.

Stein Mart launches marketing push

Stein Mart Inc. is launching new television commercials that are “a departure from what is traditionally expected from Stein Mart and we look forward to the customer’s surprise,” said CEO Dawn Robertson.

In the company’s conference call after its Aug. 19 earnings report, Robertson said the ads are part of a new marketing push for the Jacksonville-based fashion retailer.

“Television is the best way to attract new customers and draw existing customers to the brand and specific events,” she said.

The marketing initiatives also include new merchandise assortments and a redesigned website for online shopping.

“The new site has a fully responsive design to support all devices, faster and easier to shop. We’re really pleased with the initial response we’re receiving from our customers,” Robertson said.

Stein Mart, like many other apparel retailers, has been struggling to lift sales.

While total sales rose 1.6 percent to $675.5 million in the first half of the fiscal year, comparable-store sales dropped 2.5 percent.

Comparable-store sales are sales at stores open for more than one year and are considered a key indicator of a retailer’s performance.

Robertson was brought in as chief executive in March, succeeding Jay Stein, who remains chairman.

“The past five months had been a great learning experience for myself and our team. We are anxious to start putting into action many of the sales growth initiatives that we’ve been diligently working on,” she said.

Medtronic’s ENTĀ unit grows revenue

Without giving any financial figures, Medtronic plc said its Jacksonville division, which makes surgical instruments for ear, nose and throat doctors, increased revenue by a “high-single digits” percentage in its first quarter ended July 29.

The ENT unit, which employs about 750 people in Jacksonville, is part of Medtronic’s specialty therapies division that increased revenue by 3 percent to $356 million in the first quarter.

Overall, the global medical device maker said first-quarter revenue rose, after adjusting for foreign exchange fluctuations, by 5 percent to $7.17 billion.

Adjusted earnings of $1.03 a share were a penny higher than last year.

TapImmune hires CFO

TapImmune Inc. last week announced the appointment of Michael Loiacono as chief financial officer.

Loiacono was formerly chief financial officer of Global Axcess Corp., a Jacksonville-based company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2013 and sold off its businesses. Global Axcess operated automated teller machine networks.

TapImmune is a Jacksonville-based company developing immunotherapies to treat cancer.

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