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Fairholme 'Advocating Democracy', says Former Gov. Crist

The ongoing St. Joe real estate saga has taken a turn again; a new and influential player has been introduced to the drama.

Bruce Berkowitz's Fairholme Funds has nominated former Florida Governor Charlie Crist to the board of St. Joe.

And we’ve got the scoop. Crist spoke with us exclusively in a live interview on CNBC’s Fast Money.

But before we get to that a short history lesson is probably in order.

As you may know, mutual fund manager Bruce Berkowitz has been a champion of St. Joe even as rival hedgie David Einhron argued that the company's real-estate bets were wildly aggressive and the stock was terribly overvalued.

Berkowitz feels quite differently. Because St. Joe holds a great deal of property along the Gulf coast, he argues the company is sitting on fertile ground for lucrative resorts and -- as a result - is undervalued.

Earlier this year Berkowtiz joined the board of St. Joe, but on Monday he quit saying the board was too entrenched.

"When we saw problems at St. Joe, we tried to make constructive changes within the board structure," Berkowitz's Fairholme Funds Inc said in a letter to shareholders on Wednesday. "We ultimately came to the conclusion that this was not possible."

Now Berkowitz wants to rejoin the board, and wants to install two allies on the panel – one of whom is former Florida Governor Charlie Crist.

In a live interview on CNBC’s Fast Money Crist tells us that Bruce Berkowitz isn’t looking for a proxy fight rather he’s “advocating democracy.”

”What Bruce wants to do is make sure the company is run well and make sure its run with the shareholders interests at heart… that’s what the concern is.. doing what’s right for the company and the shareholders who own it.”

St. Joe has adopted what it called a shareholder rights plan to deter any hostile takeover attempt. It said the plan would allow the company to conduct an orderly review of its alternatives, which also include a revised business plan, partnerships and asset sales.

The rights will be exercisable if a person or group acquires 10 percent or more of the company's common stock.

But Crist insists there's nothing hostile going on. "I’m a Floridian," he says, and St Joe is steeped in Florida history."

St. Joe started as a rural landowner in the Florida Panhandle in the 1930s. It shifted focus from timber assets to beachfront land development in the 1980s. It stepped up its housing development during the boom but has since switched to becoming a master planner, designing and getting the necessary permits for others to build.

"I have a lifelong interest in St. Joe. I want it to be successful," Crist insists.


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Trader disclosure: On Feb 16, 2011, the following stocks and commodities mentioned or intended to be mentioned on CNBC’s "Fast Money" were owned by the "Fast Money" traders; Terranova Owns (VRTS); Terranova Owns (C); Terranova Owns (SLXP); Terranova owns (BAX); Terranova owns (TEVA); Terranova Owns (UPL); Terranova Owns (GM); Terranova Owns (APA); Terranova Owns (CVI); Terranova Owns (SU); Terranova Owns (CNQ); Terranova owns (MS); Terranova owns (CME) puts; Adami Owns (AGU); Adami Owns (C); Adami Owns (GS); Adami Owns (INTC); Adami Owns (MSFT); Adami Owns (NUE); Adami Owns (BTU); Adami's wife works for (MRK); Finerman's Firm Is Short (IWM); Finerman's Firm Is Short (SPY); Finerman's Firm Is Short (MDY); Finerman's Firm Is Long S&P Puts; Finerman's Firm Is Long Russell 2000 Puts; Finerman's Firm And Finerman Own (AAPL); Finerman's Firm Owns (BAC) Leap, Finerman Owns (BAC); Finerman's Firm Owns (BBY); Finerman's Firm And Finerman Own (BP); Finerman Owns (C); Finerman Owns (GOOG); Finerman's Firm And Finerman Own (HPQ); Finerman's Firm Owns (IBM); Finerman's Firm Owns (JPM), (JPM) Leap; Finerman Owns (JPM); Finerman's Firm Owns (M); Finerman's Firm And Finerman Own (MSFT); Finerman's Firm Owns (TGT); Finerman's Firm Owns (WMT); Finerman and Finerman's Firm Own (DAI); Jon Najarian owns (AAPL), is short (AAPL) calls; Jon Najarian owns (AMD), is short (AMD) calls; Jon Najarian owns (BP), is short (BP) calls; Jon Najarian owns (CBOE), is short (CBOE) calls; Jon Najarian owns (CME), is short (CME) calls; Jon Najarian owns (DE), is short (DE) calls; Jon Najarian owns (DELL), is short (DELL) calls; Jon Najarian owns (DG), is short (DG) calls; Jon Najarian owns (HPQ), is short (HPQ) calls; Jon Najarian owns (JDSU), is short (JDSU) calls; Jon Najarian owns (M), is short (M) calls; Jon Najarian owns (NDAQ), is short (NDAQ) calls; Jon Najarian owns (NYX), is short (NYX) calls; Jon Najarian owns (RIMM), is short (RIMM) calls; Jon Najarian owns (JNPR), is short (JNPR) calls; Jon Najarian owns (AET), is short (AET) calls; Jon Najarian owns (AKAM), is short (AKAM) calls; Jon Najarian owns (BX), is short (BX) calls; Jon Najarian owns (RAX), is short (RAX) calls; Jon Najarian owns (SVU), is short (SVU) calls; Jon Najarian owns (SWY), is short (SWY) calls; Jon Najarian owns (X), is short (X) calls; Jon Najarian owns (WMT), is short (WMT) calls; Karabell owns (AAPL); Karabell and River Twice Capital own (BRCM); Karabell owns (C); Karabell and River Twice Capital own (CSCO); Karabell owns (FCX); Karabell owns (GOOG); Karabell and River Twice Capital own (IBM); Karabell owns (RIMM); Karabell and River Twice Capital own (GS); Karabell owns (GE)


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