Securities dealer Merrill Lynch and Co., accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand and law firm Shereff, Friedman, Hoffman & Goodman will pay $100 million to the State of Florida to settle a lawsuit stemming from the failure of Florida-based insurer Guarantee Security in August 1991. The $100 million will be used to pay any unresolved claims from more than 55,000 Guarantee Security policyholders and to repay the emergency funds that cover insurer failures.
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines will offer service to Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, starting in January, and to Orlando in April. Southwest, the nation's sixth-largest airline, will fly to Florida from airports in the Midwest, South and Northeast. With an average one-way fare of $58 last year, Southwest's move into Florida may help to lower fares charged by other airlines here.
A new 400-acre wildlife park may be built in the Panhandle by Jim Fowler, who was the co-host of Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom" TV show. He plans to house wild animals, to restock endangered species and to provide a learning environment for visitors. The park will be located within a 1,500-acre Sweetwater Family Resort in Marianna, which will be built by the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.
The Department of Commerce gave Fairfax, Va.-based Mobil Oil a permit for an exploratory well located in the Gulf of Mexico just 13.5 miles south of Pensacola Beach. If the Environmental Protection Agency grants Mobil Oil an air pollution discharge permit, the last obstacle will be removed from the company's path and drilling could begin.
Jacksonville-based Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida lost its contract as the administrator of Florida's $300 million state employee health plan. Its bid of $102.2 million for a new eight-year contract was higher than the $86.8 million bid from Unisys, the international information management company that already administers Florida's Medicaid program. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida had been the state's health plan administrator for 17 years.
Deerfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foodservice, a supplier of food products to restaurants, hospitals and schools, announced that it will close its Ocala warehouse and distribution operations and relocate to a newer site in Tampa by the middle of this month. Forty of the 60 employees who work at the facility will lose their jobs.
Portion Pac, a subsidiary of Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Heinz U.S.A., will open a new 250,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Jacksonville. The company, which produces single-use pre-packaged condiments, plans to hire approximately 300 workers for the new plant.
Orlando is one of the top five United States destinations for summer travel, according to surveys conducted by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) and the American Automobile Association (AAA). ASTA's nationwide "Annual Summer Hot Spots Survey" of 342 travel agents revealed that 64% of the respondents said Orlando was among the five most-requested destinations. The nationwide survey of AAA travel managers indicated that Orlando is the number one destination for its members.
Orlando-based Moran Printing plans to start construction on a 40,000-square-foot expansion of its printing plant located west of Orlando International Airport. The printing company's addition will allow the company to relocate a subsidiary and to add 30 new employees. The company, with 1994 sales of more than $27 million, currently employs 171 people at the Orlando plant and more than 50 at its plant in Tampa.
Walt Disney Co., the California-based entertainment powerhouse and parent company of Orlando's Walt Disney World, agreed to take over Capital Cities/ABC Inc., subject to shareholder and regulatory approval. The deal, valued at approximately $19 billion, gives Disney the ABC Television Network, 80% of the sports channel company ESPN Inc., 50% of Lifetime Television, 37.5% of A&E Television Networks, at least eight television stations, 21 radio stations and a newspaper, magazine and book publishing operation. Disney does not expect staff reductions for either partner in the deal. The sale is expected to close by early 1996.
Cruises Only, an Orlando-based cruise company, is moving from its 15,000-square-foot building to a new 55,000-square-foot location. The company expects to increase its work force from 130 to approximately 500 by the end of 1996.
Wal-Mart plans to open a new 830,000-square-foot food distribution center in Winter Haven. The center is expected to open by late next year, initially employing 200 and eventually 400.
Carpenter Co., a Richmond, Va.-based manufacturer of foam, is completing construction in Lakeland on phase one of its expansion plan, a 90,000-square-foot polyurethane foam fabrication plant that will employ 30. When the entire expansion is completed, the company will have 500,000 square feet under one roof.
Eight women, all current and former employees of Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets, filed a class action lawsuit against the company. The women charge the company with discrimination against its 45,000 female employees. Publix has denied the charges.
Dallas-based PCS PrimeCo, a partnership of AirTouch, Bell Atlantic, NYNEX and US WEST that sells wireless communications services, leased 20,000 square feet in Tampa's Hidden River Corporate Park. The new Southeast Regional offices initially will employ 40.
By the middle of this month, Florida Steel will idle its Tampa Steel Mill, putting approximately 104 employees out of work. The company, a Tampa-based operator of steel mills, will continue to use the location as a steel warehouse and distribution center.
G&K Services, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based supplier of uniforms and textile products, plans to open a new 44,220-square-foot facility in the Corporex Business Park in Tampa. The new building will house a uniform processing plant and a sales and service center. When the facility opens in the spring of 1996, it will house about 60 people.
About 200 acres of land near Sumter County's Lake Panasoffkee may become home to the new Florida Agricultural Museum, thanks to approval from the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The site, which is managed by the district, is one of about 20 locations being considered by the Florida Agricultural Museum Board of Trustees.
Clewiston-based United States Sugar announced that it will harvest its entire crop by machine next season, eliminating the need to bring in workers from the Caribbean. The conversion will cause the company to lay off between 50 and 100 seasonal employees.
Construction of a shopping center in east Fort Myers can begin, thanks to a $500,000 grant and a $500,000 loan awarded by the federal government to Fort Myers' Community Redevelopment Agency. The planned shopping center will contain a Premier Foods supermarket, a pharmacy, three fast-food restaurants, and a family health center and will employ approximately 200 in permanent positions.
Professional Employee Management, a Bradenton-based employee leasing company, took over about 80 accounts and gained approximately 1,300 employees from Business Solutions, a Pensacola employee leasing firm shut down by state regulators due to financial problems. Business Solutions lost its state license due to a net working capital deficiency of about $115,000. According to state licensing requirements, an employee leasing company must show a positive net cash flow on its quarterly financial statements in order to renew its license.
Serta Mattress has bought 15.6 acres adjacent to Riviera Beach and plans to build a 150,000- to 200,000-square-foot factory and office complex. The company, a division of West Palm Beach-based Palm Beach Bedding, also will expand its work force from 160 to approximately 200.
The state of Florida may buy 32,000 acres in southern Palm Beach County. Talisman Sugar, a subsidiary of St. Joe Paper, hopes to sell the land for as much as $2,000 an acre. The Conservation and Recreational Land (CARL) Acquisition Advisory Council voted 5-1 to assess the land. If the Council decides the land would benefit Florida, the property would be placed on the CARL purchase list, and then in February 1996, Florida's Cabinet would vote on whether or not to purchase the land.
The City of Miami Beach approved a letter of intent that would permit design and development for the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. It would be the first major hotel built in Miami in 30 years. The Loews would have 830 rooms and 93,350 square feet of meeting space. Under the proposed development timetable, the hotel would open in late 1997.
NationsBank, based in Charlotte, N.C., has reached an agreement to purchase Intercontinental Bank of Miami, which has 16 locations in Dade County, six in Broward County and two in Palm Beach County. Intercontinental shareholders would receive NationsBank common stock recently valued at $208 million. Separately, NationsBank has signed an agreement to acquire Miami-based CSF Holdings, the parent company of Citizens Federal Bank, for $516 million in cash. Citizens Federal Bank has 40 banking offices in Florida. Both deals are expected to close by the end of the year.
Six directors and officers who own 29.3% of Fort Lauderdale-based InPhyNet Medical Management, a company that sells physician services to hospitals, filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission indicating they will review and pursue "strategies to create liquidity." The group also said it may contact other shareholders "who may be interested in a transaction involving the company." In a statement issued the same day as the SEC filing, InPhyNet denied that the company is for sale.