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Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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Port board urges quick resolution of Channelside legal issues

TAMPA — Tampa Port Authority board members Tuesday urged an expedient pursuit to resolve legal issues involving control of the lease to Channelside Bay Plaza, built on land the port owns, but offered no specifics on strategy it might employ to bring the complex matter to a close.

Port counsel Charles Klug said a liquidator involved in the international bankruptcy case in U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Court in Delaware would be a party to any proceedings.

But Klug provided no further details on when or how the next major steps in resolving multiple lawsuits could be resolved. The port could pursue possibly buying the lease and finding an operator to reverse the fortunes of the financially beleaguered retail, food and entertainment complex, but other parties have been interested in the lease as well.

“Channelside is the heart of the downtown district,” Hillsborough County and Tampa Port Authority Commissioner Sandy Murman said. “We cannot let this slip through our fingers.”

A federal bankruptcy judge last week dismissed four counts of an adversary complaint by a local investors group, Liberty Channelside LLC, which had wanted to acquire the lease in a deal the port authority board opposed.

The federal court is overseeing bankruptcy proceedings of the Irish Bank Resolution Corp., which itself had foreclosed on the property, adding a layer of complexity to a contentious situation.

In an unrelated matter, Gregory Celestan, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Celestar Corp, a government consulting firm, was sworn in as a member of the port authority board.

The retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and West Point graduate who has a masters degree from the University of Washington was appointed by Gov Rick Scott to a term to Nov. 25, 2017.

He replaces Larry Shipp, who former Gov. Charlie Crist had reappointed to a term that ended late last year.

Shipp played an extremely active role on the board since 2006 including tenure as chairman and helping guide strategy through the recession.

He concluded his term Tuesday by saying, “This Shipp has sailed.”

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