Pan-European private equity firm Bridgepoint has sold its 55 per cent stake in health and fitness business Virgin Active back to Virgin for £134.5m. Bridgepoint has made a three times money multiple on the investment, the firm said.
Bridgepoint first acquired its stake in February 2002 when it agreed a £110m partnership with Virgin to fund expansion of the chain. Since then the business has doubled the number of clubs in the UK, entered the Italian and Spanish markets, and increased its portfolio in South Africa. Virgin Active now has 25 clubs in the UK, 77 clubs in South Africa and 12 clubs in Continental Europe. It has 635,000 members worldwide.
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson said, ‘Virgin Active has a fantastic quality and value for money approach to the health club market. Bridgepoint has been a great partner, growing the business with us in specific territories in Europe in the difficult investment climate that followed September 11th. We now wish to take the concept to a wider global market and as part of that process offered to buy out Bridgepoint. I would like to thank them for their support over the last three years.’
Patrick Fox, director of Bridgepoint, added, ‘Virgin Active has been a high performing business whose differentiated product has been well received both here in the UK and in new markets it has entered. We are pleased to have played a role in helping the concept roll out into Europe and wish management well as they now look to take the business into other parts of the world.’
In recent months there has been a lot of activity in the fitness club sector. BC Partners, for example bought Fitness First for £835m from Cinven, while MidOcean Partners completed the acquisition of LA Fitness for a reported £150m.
Bridgepoint, together with Permira, sold Holmes Place’s Iberian business, comprised of 15 health and fitness clubs in Spain and Portugal, to a consortium of Iberian private equity investors including Nmas1, Mercapital and Explorer Investments in a €110m transaction.
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