No sooner did David Hoffmann make Forbes’ list of billionaires for the first time did the Naples real estate investor step down as CEO of his Hoffmann Family of Companies.
In an exclusive interview with Gulfshore Business, Hoffmann, 69, laughed at the insinuation that he was just trying to make the list prior to cutting back on his corporate duties. David and his wife Jerri’s two sons, Geoff and Greg Hoffmann, were named co-CEOs of the companies earlier this month.
“We’ve been planning that for a while,” Hoffmann said. “They’ve got the energy to take the company to the next level. They’re well prepared for that. We’ve talked about it for years. We’ve been functioning that way for years.”
David Hoffmann ranked as the 2,170th richest person in the world, according to Forbes, with a net worth of $1.3 billion. It includes owning 42 properties in Collier County, which he began acquiring in 2015.
“I think I’ll be focused more on buying more stuff down here,” said Hoffmann, who in recent months has purchased some agricultural land in Collier County and the Old Corkscrew Golf Club in Lee County. He bought the golf course and adjacent lands on which he plans to build 20 homes for $19 million. “We hope to make it one of the finest public golf courses in the country. I think the layout will speak to that. It’s really a spectacular place.
“We’re opportunists. When we see opportunities, we’re going to jump on them. But I think the key to our company is diversification. We want a very diverse base.”
Hoffmann gave the interview in an office overlooking one of his Lee County investments. Three years ago, Hoffmann bought the Florida Everblades minor league hockey team and Hertz Arena, a sports and entertainment venue that opened in 1998.
The COVID-19 pandemic struck at the end of Hoffmann’s first season at the helm. During the 2020-21 ECHL season, the Everblades led the league in attendance, but it plunged by 33% to about 3,500 per game.
This season, attendance has risen back to the more normal 5,300 per game. The arena seats more than 7,000 fans, and Hoffmann hopes interest will spike, especially with the Everblades on the verge of playing for their second Kelly Cup championship, which they haven’t won since 2012.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” said Hoffmann, who had almost all of the arena renovated after buying it. “They had a great team for 21 years. We knew that going in. It’s exciting for the area. It’s exciting for our family and our companies.
“I’m really proud of the team. Our coach set a record for most wins in the ECHL. It’s just a great sense of value here. I didn’t develop this team. I didn’t create this team. I’m just really fortunate to have inherited this team.”
Hoffmann retained Craig Brush as the team’s general manager. Brush has been at the helm since the very beginning, and next season will be the 25th for the Everblades.
“I invested because of Craig Brush,” Hoffmann said. “I had a lot of faith in his leadership and what he brought to the team in 21 years and what he’s brought to Southwest Florida. That was probably my No. 1 thing. And then secondly, I have four grandsons. Their life is hockey. It’s really been really cool for them to be involved. Minor league hockey here is pretty big stuff.”
Hoffmann said he has some other “big stuff” planned as he owns several buildings on Fifth Avenue South in downtown Naples, and he said he’s not finishing acquiring properties there.
“We’re not done there,” Hoffmann said of the iconic street. “We have two that we’ll probably be announcing in the next two weeks that we’ve purchased. And one on Third Street as well.”
Fifth Avenue South grabbed Hoffmann’s attention seven years ago and he explained why.
“I think it was one of the most undervalued pieces of real estate in America,” he said. “We came down here in 2015. We looked at Palm Beach and Worth Avenue. We looked at Fifth Avenue South. It’s got the same recognition I think around the country and around the world as being one of the best streets in America. I think downtown Naples has turned into one of the most vibrant downtowns in America.”
In acquiring and managing large swaths of Fifth Avenue, Hoffmann said he could make the area even more dynamic.
“It had a whole bunch of different owners, which made it fragmented,” he said. “There was no cohesive, real plan to redevelop the space. I’m not a developer. I’m a redeveloper. I think with single ownership, we can go and invest in it. We have the size to do that. It’s playing out really well for us and the community.”