The pandemic has shifted people towards leading healthier lifestyles, says Virgin Active
Virgin Active Holdings has raised $118 million, appointed a new CEO and acquired Real Foods Group. By combining a fitness company and a nutrition group, the UK-based health and fitness chain says it hopes to capitalize on positive health trends around the world.
One notable backer includes Christo Wiese.
A new CEO for the combined companies
Dean Kowarski, the founder of Real Foods in Cape Town, has been appointed the CEO of Virgin Active.
Kowarski founded Real Foods in 2013 and grew it from 100 to 204 locations. He succeeds now-former CEO Matthew Bucknall, who, according to Virgin, has announced his intention to retire but will continue to serve as a special adviser to the Board and a non-executive Director of Virgin Active Italy.
“This is an incredibly exciting moment for Virgin Active and The Real Foods Group,” says Kowarski.
“Both brands have been pioneers in their respective wellness fields, building local and international reputations for excellence. On the back of today’s transaction, we now have the opportunity to combine our skills to deliver a complete health offer around both fitness and nutrition so that our members can meet their health goals more successfully. This, alongside the additional investment in the business, positions Virgin Active strongly to deliver growth over the long term.”
Virgin Active has also announced that Mark Field, Manager Director at Virgin Active South Africa, will soon become Group CFO.
A shared vision of wellness
Virgin purchased Real Foods Group for £28.6 million, and the acquisition is set to go into effect in the second quarter of this year. Virgin says that the nutrition assets of Real Foods Group will be combined with those of Virgin Active to form a wellness group with a shared vision.
The goal, according to Virgin, is to align fitness and nutrition while providing accessible exercise programs. With health goals better realized, membership growth and retention will follow, says the company.
“We now have the opportunity to combine our skills to deliver a complete health offer around fitness and nutrition,” Kowarski said in a statement. “The additional investment in the business positions Virgin Active strongly to deliver growth over the long term.”
A deal that had been ‘percolating’ in Kowarsaki’s mind
During an interview on The Money Show, Kowarski says the deal to create a wellness group had been rolling around in his mind for over three years and called connecting with Virgin Active a natural fit.
When asked about the fitness industry in a post-pandemic setting, the new Virgin Active CEO said that consumers are seeking community and he sees the increased attendance rates at gyms. “People are tired of working out at home. It’s hard to keep sustained and motivated working out at home,” Kowarski says.
Courtney Rehfeldt has worked in the broadcasting media industry since 2007 and has freelanced since 2012. Her work has been featured in Age of Awareness, Times Beacon Record, The New York Times, and she has an upcoming piece in Slate. She studied yoga & meditation under Beryl Bender Birch at The Hard & The Soft Yoga Institute. She enjoys hiking, being outdoors, and is an avid reader. Courtney has a BA in Media & Communications studies.