(Carl Cronan is editor of RealEstateFlorida.)

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For more on the financial crisis, check out GlobeSt.com's Webinar, "Wall Street In a Freefall—TheWinners and Losers."

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ST. PETERSBURG, FL-Raymond James Financial Inc. has become thenation's largest investment bank by default, with the conversion oflarger rivals Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to commercial banks.But what this means for the locally based corporation's expansionplans is up in the air at this point, much like a puntedfootball.

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Raymond James is currently the largest office tenant at theCarillon mixed-use development in St. Petersburg, with roughly amillion sf in four midrise buildings. It also has 2,200 officesaround the world, either owned or leased, offering investment,brokerage, financial planning and asset management services.

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The company owns vacant land for future expansion at Carillon,where it enjoys high visibility along Interstate 275, yet is saidto be looking across Tampa Bay for possible expansion in northHillsborough and south Pasco Counties, according to local brokersfamiliar with its plans. Raymond James executives, who wereunavailable for comment Tuesday, have stated for years that theyhave been studying various options.

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With annual revenue just above $3 billion last year, RaymondJames is considered an up-and-comer among investment stalwarts suchas Lehman Bros., which declared bankruptcy Sept. 14, and MerrillLynch, soon to become part of Bank of America. It advanced its namerecognition over the past decade by securing naming rights toTampa's Raymond James Stadium, where it gets added exposure duringTampa Bay Buccaneers football games, the 2001 and 2009 Super Bowlsand other stadium events.

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Given its new lofty position among investment banks, localcommercial real estate observers wonder whether Raymond James cantake advantage of a potential growth opportunity or position for asimilar merger with a much-larger banking concern. "It could goeither way," says one office broker who didn't want to beidentified.

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As uncertain as its real estate plans is Raymond James' standingamong the Wall Street analysts tracking its performance. Earlierthis week, Keefe Bruyette & Woods downgraded the company'sstock, from "outperform" to "market perform," effectively reversingthe upgrade it applied this past summer. Raymond James reportedTuesday that its securities commissions and fees for August,totaling $139.8 million, are off by at least 10% from the samemonth last year. Thomas James, the company's chairman and CEO,stated in a release that "we are in the process of witnessing theworst global financial crisis" since the early 1970s.

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