Stephen Bebis, the founder of Canadian golf retail giant Golf Town, has parted ways with the company, sources at the company confirmed today. His departure surprised even those in senior roles at the retailer, which is the largest golf retail company in Canada by a significant margin. This afternoon there were few answers as to why Bebis was not in the CEO role any longer and senior executives at Golftown were at a loss to explain what had happened.
Earlier this year Bebis launched an initiative to move Golf Town into the U.S.:
“You can’t dabble in the U.S.,” Bebis said in an interview at the company’s Laird Ave. store in Toronto’s Leaside neighbourhood. “We’re not ‘testing’ the market. We’re committing. We’re going to be a household name within a year.” (source)
One has to wonder if the departure has something to do with the U.S. initiative or some other factor.
Golf Town, which was formed in 1999 by Bebis, who had previous big box retail experience with Aikenheads, tapped into the Canadian retail golf market in a way few others had tried. I recall going to the opening of the store in 1999 in Scarborough and being shocked by the vast size of it compared to the typical golf retailers I was used to. Bebis, an American, took the company public as an income trust before selling it to Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System in 2007 for a reported $240-million. He expanded the chain into the U.S. earlier this year.
Bebis was one chapter in my Going for the Green book, and a member at Magna Golf Club. He was known as being occasionally shy in social situations, but also ran through numerous senior executives at Golftown.
Regardless, Bebis changed the golf retail landscape in a way no one had previously. It’ll be interesting to see how steps into the role with his departure.