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Majority owner of International Plaza consolidates hold

Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 06:44 PM

A Michigan company that owns a majority stake in International Plaza has paid $437 million to purchase the remaining shares in the mall.

Until Wednesday, Taubman Centers of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., had owned 50.1 percent of the upscale mall anchored by Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Dillard's. It acquired the other 49.9 percent Wednesday by buying out Tampa-based CSAT LP, controlled by Tampa developer Dick Corbett.

Shoppers shouldn't see any changes in the mall's management or marketing, said Taubman Centers communications director Karen MacDonald. However, it does eliminate some local ownership of what has been the Tampa region's best-performing mall.

Corbett began eyeing land near Tampa International Airport for development as far back as 1978. He originally planned a major business park on the property, which housed a golf course at the time, but the park failed to materialize for years. By the early 1990s, he changed direction and started planning a shopping center.

He teamed up with Taubman Centers and eventually opened International Plaza in September 2001, just days after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

Today, the 1.2-million square-foot mall is thought to be the Tampa region's highest-grossing and most profitable shopping center. Taubman Centers doesn't release sales figures for its individual malls, but Patrick Berman, a retail real estate broker with the Cushman & Wakefield firm, estimated International Plaza's sales at well over $500 per square foot.

That's extremely strong, because even good malls typically do about $400 per square foot, Berman said. The price for Corbett's 49.9 percent of the mall seems reasonable, given the mall's dominance in the market, he said.

The $437 million purchase price is comprised of $275 million in cash and $162 million in acquired debt.

Corbett was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

Dick Greco, who was mayor of Tampa when the mall opened, said Corbett hung on for years as his plans for a business park stalled. All the while, he was paying rent to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, which owned the land.

"If someone else had done something else with it, it wouldn't be as beneficial for us as it is today," Greco said. (813) 259-7865 Twitter: @msasso