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Graeme Roustan steps down as Bauer chairman to focus on Markham Arena project

The man who hopes to build a 20,000-seat NHL-style rink in suburban Toronto is stepping down from his post as chairman of Bauer Hockey, the largest equipment manufacturer in the world.

Graeme Roustan, who was ranked No. 38 on THN’s People of Power list in 2012, made the announcement Tuesday and will be replaced by Bernard McDonell, a relative unknown in the hockey world. Roustan will also give up his position as a director on the board in October, but will retain his 4.5 percent interest in the company, that is currently valued at about $350 million.

Roustan is at the forefront of the GTA Centre, an arena being built in the Toronto suburb of Markham and a place many have speculated will be the future home of an NHL franchise. For his part, Roustan has repeatedly insisted he has given no guarantees of landing a franchise. But given his close ties to the NHL – he helped establish the San Jose Sharks and was a finalist to purchase both the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning in recent years – many have speculated that is his goal.

In fact, Roustan acknowledged he is leaving his position with Bauer to concentrate more on the new arena.

“The next 12 months is going to be a very busy time in the development of the GTA Centre,” Roustan said in an interview with THN.com. “And I will be focusing on that and a few other opportunities that are in front of me right now.”

In fact, there are those in the business sector who believe it will be only a matter of time before Roustan puts together a group of investors to buy the company back. Rules stipulate that Roustan would have to wait until after he gives up his directorship, which he will do Oct. 17, to attempt to buy the company back. The company went public 18 months ago and has since seen its share value rise from an opening of $7.50 to about $10.

In 2008, a partnership led by Roustan and the private equity firm Kohlberg and Co., bought Bauer from Nike for $200 million. Since then, the company has increased in value to $350 million and its shares have jumped in value by 33 percent. Bauer has also increased its worldwide market share by 50 percent in the four years since it was sold by Nike.

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