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Exclusive: Martin Long scotches LA fitness sell-off speculation

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LA fitness CEO Martin Long has played down media speculation that LA fitness will offload more than the 33 clubs outlined in its CVA (company Voluntary Arrangement) and says the company is focused on pushing forward.

Reports implied that the appointment of private equity specialist Michael O’Donnell – who replaces outgoing chair Fred Turok – could be a precursor to the sale of further LA fitness sites, however Long was swift to shoot down these rumours.

“It’s certainly news to me,” Long told Health Club Management. “I think the confusion stems from changes necessitated by our very public restructuring. Our company accounts came out recently and for the first time we filed them under the name ‘LA fitness’ rather than the old owner ‘MidOcean Partners’, as the CVA made those accounts irrelevant.

“Obviously we’re going through a period of change, with a different debt structure and new shareholders, so we’ll see a new board in place. Michael was headhunted and he’s a professional non-exec chair with a wealth of experience. Fred’s still involved in a consultancy capacity and remains very much part of the business.”

Long added that beyond the 33 clubs being spun off – which he expects to have been completed by January – the company is eager to push forward, with new ventures such as the premium LAX brand giving cause for optimism.

“Right now we’re focusing on completing the change period and then we can set about growing our business. Sports Direct is still the preferred partner to take over the 33 CVA clubs (they’ve so far taken 13 of the 17 to be sold) and I expect they’ll have acquired more come January.

“Some of the clubs may close and I’ve heard that some will be Pure Gym (it has already snapped up one former LA site in Belfast), but it’s all to do with the landlords really, as there are a lot of different parties involved.

“We’ve been quietly getting on with our business and see this change period as an exciting time. We’re seeing membership growth and have just opened the second LAX site in Kensington, so there’s plenty to be optimistic about.”

To read an interview with Martin Long from January 2014 edition of Health Club Management, (p.38-42) click here.

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LA fitness CEO Martin Long has played down media speculation that LA fitness will offload more than the 33 clubs outlined in its CVA (company Voluntary Arrangement) and says the company is focused on pushing forward.
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Long has been at the helm of LA fitness since moving from Game Group in 2008
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