Lightning hockey team owner Jeff Vinik is shutting down the hedge fund that he manages from Tampa, and is returning remaining money to his outside investors.

Lightning officials confirmed the closure, and said the move should have no impact on the team or operations at the Forum where they play, while several fund managers that worked with Vinik plan to start up their own investment companies.

Vinik wrote a letter to investors Friday, saying that while he and his partners “love competing with the market day in and day out, it is time for us to take a break.”

This is the second time in a remarkable stock-picking career where Vinik has quit a fund after making bets that turned south just as the stock market was reaching huge highs.

The move raises a host of questions about Vinik’s role in the Tampa area, and his hopes for the hockey team and his family’s charitable works. Vinik himself was not available for comment on Friday. Instead, Lightning officials issued a statement.

“This will allow Mr. Vinik to better focus on his most important priorities moving forward: family, the Vinik Family Foundation and his Tampa Bay interests,” said Lightning spokesman Bill Wickett. “Those include Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment and its entities, real estate development opportunities in the Channelside District and philanthropy.”

Benefactor

It’s not uncommon in the high-stakes world of Wall Street hedge funds for companies to shut down and return proceeds to investors. But it’s a stark shift in Tampa for Vinik, who only came to the local scene recently and quickly became a philanthropic benefactor and sports mogul.

Vinik started his own fund in 1996 in Boston after a celebrated turn running the Magellan Fund at Fidelity Investments, then the largest actively managed mutual fund in the United States.
Unfortunately, some of his larger investments there turned negative, just as the tech boom was starting to take off.

Vinik left to start his own fund, and in 2006, Boston magazine estimated his net worth at $515 million.

A longtime sports fan and partial owner of the Boston Red Sox, Vinik in early 2010 bought the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team, and soon moved himself, his family and his fund from Boston to Tampa, renting office space on the 31st floor of the SunTrust tower, and building homes for himself and his extended family in Palma Ceia.

Vinik started donating to scores of causes, ranging from small donations to high schools, to larger roles with the Tampa Museum of Art. His wife Penny is now on the board of the Tampa Museum of Art, a role that typically comes with sizeable support for the museum.

The most currently available documents from the Vinik Family Foundation date from 2011, just as the couple was moving to Tampa, and list $9.5 million in donations in Boston and the Tampa Bay area, including $1 million to the Tampa Bay Host Committee, $12,500 to the Tampa Museum of Art and $2 million to the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation.

More recently, Vinik has taken ownership stakes in land around the Forum, and put in a bid to take over the struggling Channelside Bay Plaza shopping center there – laying out a vision for renovating the entire neighborhood.