Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Mote Sells Farm

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Mote Sells Farm

Article excerpt

BUYER OF CAVIAR AND FISH BUSINESS IS GROUP THAT WANTS TO MOVE AQUARIUM

SARASOTA -- Mote Marine Laboratory is selling its more than decade-old sturgeon and caviar business to a local group that wants to move the nonprofit's aquarium to a bayfront site downtown.

Mote Marine officials said Monday that the sale to an affiliate of Seven Holdings will allow the laboratory to expand its freshwater aquaculture research on a 200-acre campus on Fruitville Road in eastern Sarasota County.

The sale to Southeast Venture Holdings LLC also will allow Mote to fulfill part of its strategic plan to commercialize its research and further develop its City Island campus into more of a technology park.

"It's our vision for the future that we evolve our main campus into an international marine science and innovation park," Mote CEO Michael P. Crosby said.

"We see this as viable future for us. This is an exciting first step."

1.7 tons of caviar

Crosby declined to divulge the selling price of the sturgeon and caviar business -- which produced 1.7 tons of caviar last year and costs about $500,000 annually to operate.

Though the caviar operation is not profitable, it is second- largest of its kind in the United States. Mote Marine's caviar and sturgeon operation nurtures, harvests and packages caviar on site. The Fruitville facility is growing 60,000 fish. Mote Marine's caviar typically sells for $55 to $65 an ounce.

As part of the deal, Seven Holdings also has bought licensing rights to Mote Marine's water circulation technology.

Crosby said that the sale is not at all connected to Seven Holdings' plan to move the group's popular aquarium from City Island to a five-acre tract downtown near the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

City Commissioners last month rejected by a 3-2 vote a Mote Marine request to tentatively endorse the shift. …

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