With the impending sale of Bauer, Nike will be gone from the business of hockey equipment.
It was announced Feb. 21 Nike would sell its hockey entity to Kohlberg & Co., a private equity firm, in concert with investor W. Graeme Roustan for $200 million.
What does this mean to the industry?
It likely means a strong new partner. Nike and Reebok, as in most sporting ventures, had fought each other for top-dog status in the hockey world for a decade and though it’s not fair to say Reebok “won,” the company certainly stands alone on top of the pyramid for the time being.
But Nike HQ’s bottom line of late was exactly that, the bottom line. Bauer was indeed making money for the parent company, just not at high enough a rate. As much as we all love hockey, there are only so many of us buying the equipment. Similarly, Nike Golf may be on the chopping block soon, as well; no surprise since, as the New York Times recently reported, interest in that pastime is dwindling.
Now, Kohlberg & Co. probably has no interest in hockey whatsoever. According to the group’s website, the firm’s goal is to “invest in companies where it can work in partnership with senior management to identify growth opportunities and implement fundamental operating and strategic changes, resulting in substantial increases in revenue and cash flow.”
So warm and fuzzy!
But that’s where Roustan comes in.
Born in Sherbrooke, Que., and raised in Montreal, the ex-pat Canuck has been playing hockey since he was three and has a bit of an interest in the game. That is to say, after moving to the States in the late 1980s, he founded a grassroots organization called Pro Hockey San Jose, whose goal was to bring an NHL franchise to Northern California.
That one turned out pretty well, so Roustan moved on to form Hockey for the Homeless, a charitable not-for-profit group which raised money for Habitat for Humanity via celebrity hockey tourneys.
So welcome, Graeme, but be aware of this: As much as your buddies at Kohlberg & Co. want to turn your dream company into a money machine, it ain’t gonna happen overnight.
The process will be slow and probably frustrating at times. But come to the trade shows, convince Nike Bauer endorsees such as Eric Staal, Jarome Iginla and Evgeni Malkin to stick around for the long-haul and go to work with the knowledge you now own the most legendary name in hockey gear.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his features, The Hot List and Year of the Ram, appears Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.
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