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Fitness industry mourns énergie founder Jan Spaticchia

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Jan Spaticchia, founder and chair of énergie Fitness has died aged 51 following a short illness. Spaticchia was also chair of the recently-launched Empowered Brands group, and vice-chair of BMF.

A serial entrepreneur with an eye for what makes businesses – and the people within them – tick, Spaticchia was a much-loved and respected industry leader.

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

Spaticchia began his career in the health club industry as an 18-year-old, after spotting an advert in a local paper in his native Cheshire seeking fitness enthusiasts to train as gym managers.

After completing his training, his first role in the sector was to set up and manage a hotel gym in Brentwood.

He did such a good job he was approached by a club member who – clearly impressed by the gym – wanted his help establishing his own business.

The resulting property, the Bourton Mill health club Buckingham, opened in 1991 and gave Spaticchia his first taste of creating a fitness business.

After helping on other similar projects – setting up health clubs for other people – he was ready to establish his own business, a chain of fitness clubs called HiLife.

HiLife did well and was eventually prepared for a float on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market (AIM), however, internal tensions relating to HiLife's future plans led to Spaticchia leaving the business.

He launched énergie in 2003 and together with business partner, Peter Sage, set out on a rapid expansion push, which included the purchase of four HiLife properties.

By the following year, énergie had grown to 17 franchised sites and in 2010 it acquired the Jackie Skelly Fitness chain of clubs in Ireland, expanding its geographical footprint beyond the UK.

Spaticchia grew énergie in the following years and by 2019 the company’s franchise portfolio had more than 100 sites and 150,000 members across the UK and Ireland.

In August 2019, the company was sold to Bridges Fund Management, a private equity firm with significant expertise in the health and fitness sector and a strong social mandate.

Spaticchia said at the time that there were more lucrative deals on the table, but that he favoured Bridges for this reason.

At that point, he announced his retirement, saying he would take a "backseat" in a number of ventures – including as a shareholder and non-executive director at énergie and as a non-executive director at Be Military Fit (BMF).

His retirement didn't last long, however, and he came roaring back to lead a successful MBO of énergie in June 2020, taking back control of the company he founded out of a CVA.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Spaticchia then announced growth plans for Empowered Brands, the franchise investment business that had acquired énergie Fitness, with the aim of making it the 'most dominant fitness franchise business in Europe'.

In addition to énergie Fitness, the Empowered Brands portfolio includes boutique operator, Victus Soul; HIIT concept, thé Yard and an upcoming launch called Raw – a 'digitally-enabled' boutique studio.

Speaking just last month, he said: "An Empowered Brand is an innovative disruptor in the health, fitness and wellness marketplace."

Spaticchia also entered into a partnership with industry veteran Rod Hill, signing a deal for Hill to become president of énergie Fitness Iberia and MD of énergie Fitness International in October 2020.

PERSONAL LIFE

Born to an English mother and a Sicilian father, Spaticchia attributed his passion for entrepreneurship to the influence of his uncle, whose manufacturing business he would work at during the school holidays.

Since setting his first business back in 1994, he remained his own boss until his untimely death.

As an investor he backed and helped to launch several businesses, including Hedgehog Concept, a software provider to the fitness and leisure sector where he also served as a non-executive director. Always pushing boundaries, at the time of his death, Spaticchia was working on a new portfolio of digital products.

During his career he also became a highly sought-after international speaker and presented at major events in 15 countries around the world focusing on business development, entrepreneurship, motivation and management of change.

Speaking about being an entrepreneur on the Escape Your Limits podcast in March 2021, Spaticchia said: "If you don't have fire in your belly when you get up in the morning and you can't wait to do what you do, then it's not going to work."

TRIBUTES

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive paid tribute to Spaticchia, saying: “It is with the utmost shock and sadness that we hear of the passing of Jan Spaticchia.

“Jan was a towering figure in our industry, a great pioneer and innovator, and a much-loved and respected business leader who prided himself on the commitment of his teams to serve their communities.

“Jan also led the foundation of National Fitness Day at the énergie Group in 2010, before gifting the campaign to ukactive in 2014 to grow its reach for the whole sector.

“This year marks the 10th anniversary of National Fitness Day and Jan had been more excited than ever about the potential of the campaign, which has inspired millions of people to be more active.

“His passing is a huge loss to our movement and we will strive to ensure his energy and positivity continues to flow through our work.

“At this time of great sadness for the sector and the team at ukactive, our thoughts and prayers are with Jan’s family, friends and colleagues.”

Pietro Nicholls who leads the equities and alternative real assets business at RM Funds and is a non-executive director of énergie said: “Jan was an exceptional leader with a sense of optimism that knew no bounds. His tremendous energy and appetite for innovation was infectious. He coached and developed an exceptional leadership team who – because of his influence – are very well-placed to take his legacy and the ambitious expansion plans for the company forward.

"The management team and RM Funds are fully committed to building on that legacy in the months and years ahead.”

Liz Terry, editor of HCM said: “It’s no coincidence that Jan founded a company called énergie Fitness – he was a powerhouse of a man and full of dynamism.

“Jan was also hugely creative and could see synergies and opportunities that others could not. This creativity, when coupled with his business acumen, energy, playful spirit and kind heart, meant he was able to engage people in his visions and drive them to fruition.

“He was also a great believer in the value of family and treated his business partners and colleagues with a warmth that created lifelong bonds – his working life was built on these relationships.

“He was a voracious reader and loved to share insights and would often follow up by sending copies of books he had found especially useful. There will be many people in the industry who have a book from Jan somewhere handy.

“But while he loved to share the knowledge he’d gained, this was done with enthusiasm and not arrogance – he had an open mind and was keen to always keep learning.

“This rare combination of strengths enabled Jan to build a wonderful portfolio of businesses and leave a significant legacy.

“We will all miss his incredible passion, drive, optimism, kindness and sense of fun. He brought a pure entrepreneurial spirit to our industry and inspired a generation to take the plunge and to run and grow their own fitness businesses and I know of many people whose lives have been transformed by their access to the clubs and gyms he brought to the market.”

Ray Algar, CEO of Oxygen Consulting offers insights into the early years of Jan Spaticchia’s career, saying: “Jan and I were connected through family and through business – Jan’s son Luc is my first cousin, once removed.

“For more than 30 years I watched Jan’s career flourish. When we first met, he was lecturing at a college and could see that students were struggling to find jobs in the health and fitness industry, because they lacked experience.

“He set out to solve this problem by creating an on-campus commercial gym with paying members that prepared these young students for the world of work. It was in these hybrid academic/commercial gyms that he could already see how lives could be changed and enriched through exercise.

“On leaving academia, Jan entered the commercial health and fitness industry and I felt privileged to initially mentor him as he worked enthusiastically to understand the long-term role and contribution he was going to play.

“Very soon, it was clear Jan had found his feet and his calling and from that point on his mission was to bring inclusive physical activity experiences to a mass audience.

“We worked together for a while and, at times, we had heated discussions — I was the cautious one wanting to move slowly whereas Jan was in a hurry to get on with the mission. While I would say, ‘Jan, I’m not sure we can achieve this’, he would enthusiastically reply,‘Yes we can’.

“If Jan’s style of optimism was needed then, it is even more essential now because we are facing a physical inactivity crisis. He wouldn’t want his franchisees to mourn for too long, but to double down and focus on the mission.

“This is how we can best celebrate Jan’s remarkable life, harness his energy, and ensure his legacy.

“I am going to miss Jan and I know all those who share his mission will too.”

Chris St George, principal of NM Capital, owner of BMF, of which Spaticchia was vice-chair, said: “Jan made an exceptional contribution to BMF. His leadership throughout the initial COVID-19 lockdowns and the enthusiasm with which he focused the business on providing high-quality online services typified his contribution.

Jan worked tirelessly behind the scenes to strengthen our business processes and franchise systems, bringing years of experience and knowledge to bear. I will remember him as a dynamic entrepreneur with tremendous energy, drive to succeed, and unwavering belief. He was also a great family man and loyal friend.

“As BMF looks forward to a bright future, I know that we are stronger for Jan’s contribution and we have much to be grateful to him for.”

Jan Spaticchia was born on 24 October 1969 and died of cancer on 9 May 2021. He is survived by his wife Claire and sons Josh, Luc, Dakota and Mason.

Jan and Claire’s daughter Robyn died of cancer on 11 September 2010 and her life is celebrated each year through the Spirit of énergie award.

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Jan Spaticchia, founder and chair of énergie Fitness has died aged 51 following a short illness. Spaticchia was also chair of the recently launched Empowered Brands group, and vice- chair of BMF.
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