Tom James in Boardroom back in 2003

A Generous Spirit and Commitment to Community Make This Global Businessman a Tampa Bay Superstar

Copyright 2010 Dorian Photography, Inc.

Helping Hands for Tampa Bay:  An Interview with Tom James

You could say Tom James has a big family … a very big family. The chair of Raymond James Financial, respected philanthropist, and volunteer extraordinaire has touched the lives of most residents, young and old, in the greater Tampa Bay region. Many may not even know it.

Raymond James Stadium. The United Way. Habitat for Humanity. Eckerd College. The Dali Museum.  Gasparilla Festival of the Arts. These are all part of his legacy.

From the Beginning

Raymond James Stadium
Raymond James Stadium

Raymond James was co-founded in 1962 by Robert A. James.  Son Tom, a Harvard Business School grad and sometime musician in a rock and roll band, joined the firm in 1966. He was appointed CEO of Raymond James Financial in 1970.

Forty years later, Raymond James Financial is a $3.7 billion, publicly traded corporation with annual revenues of about $2.6 billion.  The firm has more than 5,300 financial advisors and offices in 2,400 locations across the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Argentina and Brazil. Its Feather Sound headquarters in St. Petersburg employs nearly 3,300 people.

In May of 2010, at age 67, Tom James handed over the CEO reigns to Board member Paul Reilly. But he’s not ready to pull out the fishing pole just yet.  James still serves as Chairman of the Board of Raymond James Financial.

Among the numerous positions he holds, Tom James is president of the Board of Trustees of The Salvador Dali Museum, chairman of the board of the Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation, on the Host Committee for the 2012 GOP Convention in Tampa, on the Board of Dean’s Advisors at Harvard Business School, and is immediate past chairman of the Florida Council of 100, a non-profit advisory group to the state legislature.

Charitable Giving

Tom James bidding on artwork at The Art in the Park event he hosted for Chi Chi Rodriguez Foundation
Tom James bidding on artwork at The Art in the Park event he hosted for Chi Chi Rodriguez Foundation

An important aspect of Raymond James, as outlined in the firm’s mission statement, is “giving back to the communities in which we live and work.” Tom James’ commitment to this ideal can be seen across Tampa Bay.

In the Kicking for Kids program, the firm donates $1,000 for every field goal made by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the regular season to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa, and Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. Since the program started, Raymond James has contributed more than $204,000.

On game days, food and donations are raised for local food banks around the Tampa Bay area in the Sack Hunger drive. Since 2000, more than 118 tons of non-perishable food items and funding for more than 227,000  meals have been collected. Over the past 10 years, Raymond James has contributed more than $261,000 and thousands of volunteer hours to Habitat for Humanity projects in Tampa Bay.

With financial support from Raymond James, American Stage Theatre was able to open the $4 million state-of-the-art Raymond James Theatre in downtown St. Petersburg in 2009 in a partnership with St. Petersburg College. And through a naming rights contract worth $32.5 million over 15 years, Raymond James Stadium is home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As president of the Dali Museum Board of Trustees since 1994, Tom James was a major supporter and financial backer of the new Dali Museum which opened on the St. Petersburg waterfront in January of 2011.  His love of the arts has led to the Tom and Mary James Art Collection, 2,400 pieces of personally selected art and sculptures which are displayed in the company headquarters.

Education and YouthThe next generation is important to Tom James. He is involved in Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, regularly recruits office interns, and supports schools and universities across the country through scholarships.

“I believe it’s very important to help the next generation succeed,” he says.

Close to his heart is the Chi Chi Rodriguez Youth Foundation in Clearwater where he serves as chairman of the board. He is continuing the legacy of his father who in 1979 co-founded the foundation along with professional golfer Chi Chi Rodriguez and golfer Bill Hayes.  Through a unique partnership with the Pinellas County School District, the Chi Chi Academy works with disadvantaged 4th through 8th grade students using the golf course as a living class room.

“We bring in kids who are having trouble keeping up, usually from single parent families,” says James. “Our focus is to get them grounded in good values and get them a good education because they have fallen behind. It helps the kids, the school system and the teachers.”

 United Way

Mary and Tom James at United Way Event

His commitment to United Way of Tampa Bay dates back nearly 25 years when he became the founding chairman of the organization’s Alexis de Tocqueville Society. Membership in the Society is granted to individuals and foundations who contribute a minimum of $10,000 annually to United Way.

His corporate giving campaign matches employees’ United Way gifts up to $5,000 per person, in communities across the country. In the 2010-11 United Way campaign, a total gift of more than $2.8 million was raised through matching qualified donations.

“Tom is an amazing person, he leads through example,” says United Way executive board member Mario Longhi. “Typically you get volunteers from your workforce to run the two-week United Way campaign every year. Not Tom– he consistently personally oversees the campaign. He gives, he advocates and he volunteers.”

Echoing that sentiment is golf legend Chi Chi Rodriguez, who has known Tom James for nearly three decades.

“Tom James is a great man … and a very good golfer,” he quips over the phone from his home in Puerto Rico. “He gives not only his money but his time. Chi Chi Academy would not be what it is today without Tom James.”

It takes a real multi-tasker to get things done, James confesses.

“I probably go to five charitable activities a week,” he says. “Sometimes, there’s nothing I would like more than to go to a good action movie.”

Story written by Marcia Biggs for Destination Tampa Bay magazine.  For information about his art collection read this complimentary story.  Also learn more about the exciting opening of The James Museum of Western & Wildlife.