Aug. 26 (UPI) -- Vince Naimoli, the Tampa Bay Rays' first owner and CEO, died at 81.
The team announced Monday that Naimoli died Sunday night, about five years after he was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder.
"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."
Naimoli was part of unsuccessful bids to purchase and move the San Francisco Giants and Seattle Mariners before landing an American League expansion team in 1995 that began as the Devil Rays in the 1998 season. Prior to the region being awarded the Rays, the area struggled to land a MLB franchise.
The Tampa businessman eventually sold the team to a group led by current Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg in 2004 and gave up control after the 2005 campaign.
"Vince Naimoli was instrumental in bringing baseball to Tampa Bay," Sternberg said in a statement. "I am forever grateful that he entrusted me with the franchise in 2005. It was my pleasure to have worked with Vince and to have been his partner."