Among other things, Naimoli helped secure the team’s naming rights deal with Tropicana for the ballpark, and his ownership group paid for upgrades at Tropicana Field and the team’s spring training site. Naimoli was known as a relentless leader who was often confrontational, creating doubts about his viability as an MLB owner.
Naimoli was born in New Jersey and he made his fortune essentially by going from business to business and cutting costs, which earned him a reputation for being frugal. He is survived by his wife, Lenda, and four daughters.
Naimoli’s wife, Lenda, released the following statement through the team:
“Our Vince passed away peacefully the evening of August 25, 2019. He was surrounded by family and friends during his last days. We thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support for Vince. We ask for respect of our privacy during this time. Arrangement details will be communicated as they become available.”
“Vince Naimoli was instrumental in bringing baseball to Tampa Bay. I am forever grateful that he entrusted me with the franchise in 2005,” Sternberg said in a statement. “It was my pleasure to have worked with Vince and to have been his partner.”
“The Tampa Bay Rays are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former owner and CEO, Vince Naimoli,” the team said in a statement. “Vince was unyielding in his pursuit of a Major League Baseball franchise for Tampa Bay, and his success in landing the then Devil Rays changed the region’s sports landscape forever. In addition to his distinguished business and baseball careers, his family’s philanthropic efforts in the community will be felt for generations. We are grateful for his leadership and wish his family peace during this difficult time.”
Vince Naimoli, the original owner of the Tampa Bay Rays franchise, died on Sunday, the team announced Monday morning. He was 81. Naimoli was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy in 2014, and his health had been in decline since.
The Rays announced they will wear a patch on their uniform honoring Naimoli the rest of the season.
Naimoli started working to bring an MLB franchise to the Tampa/St. Petersburg area in 1991. His ownership group was officially awarded an expansion franchise on March 9, 1995. The Rays began play in 1998.
Naimoli sold a large share of the franchise to current owner Stu Sternberg in May 2005. He stepped down as managing partner in October 2005 and ceased involvement in day-to-day operations.