St. Joe Company

What Charlie Crist wants with St. Joe

February 15, 2011: 6:10 PM ET

In the latest development at the sleepy Florida landowner, Florida's former governor has been nominated to join St. Joe's Board.

Charlie Crist St. Joe

Florida governor turned board member?

The news is still swirling around St. Joe Company. Yesterday, investor Bruce Berkowitz announced that he and his partner Charlie Fernandez were stepping down as St. Joe directors after serving for little more than a month. It appears as though Berkowitz was defeated by the board in his attempt to become chairman and shake things up at the $2 billion Florida landowner.

What that means is still unclear, but all signs point to a proxy fight. Berkowitz's firm Fairholme Capital owns nearly 30% of St. Joe's (JOE) shares, and six other institutional shareholders including BlackRock (BLK) control another 40%. Now that he's relinquished his role as a director, Berkowitz can nominate a slate of his own directors and put them to a shareholder vote in as little as 45 days from now.

Among the most interesting of his proposed directors: former Florida governor Charlie Crist. Crist, a longtime acquaintance of Berkowitz's partner Charlie Fernandez, lost his bid for a U.S. Senate seat in November and has since worked at a private law firm in Florida.

Fortune caught up with the former governor Tuesday afternoon. He talked about how he got involved with Fairholme, why he wants to be part of St. Joe, and what he's doing after a life in politics. Below are edited excerpts:

The news that you were being put forward as a potential St. Joe director was a head-scratcher for a lot of people. How did it come to be? More

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