Technogym
Technogym
Technogym
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

Follow Health Club Management on Twitter Like Health Club Management on Facebook Join the discussion with Health Club Management on LinkedIn Follow Health Club Management on Instagram
UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Founder member
Get the latest news, jobs and features in your inbox
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

HCM People: Martin SeiboldCEO Life Fit Group

Gathering existing, strong brands under one roof to create the new Life Fit Group made perfect sense

Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 8
After turning around Fitness First UK, Seibold was called back to do the same in Germany
After turning around Fitness First UK, Seibold was called back to do the same in Germany

The newly-launched Life Fit Group aims to have a presence in each of Germany’s booming fitness segments. CEO Martin Seibold says reviving the fortunes of Fitness First acted as the starting gun for the business.

Seibold is becoming somewhat of a turnaround specialist. In 2006, the then MD of Fitness First Germany was transferred to Fitness First UK, named its COO and tasked with turning the business around. After a successful two-year project, he was rewarded with a promotion to a global role.

When the UK business found itself in trouble again just a few years later, its private equity owner Oaktree Capital called Seibold back – this time as MD. Between 2012 and 2017 he again revived Fitness First UK, this time through a £40m+ transformation programme that repositioned the chain by nudging it upmarket and reducing the estate from 185 clubs to just 65.

After helping Oaktree sell the UK business to DW Fitness in 2016 he was then – in May 2017 – called on to perform a similar turnaround of Fitness First Germany.

In the two years since, he and the teams across the clubs haven’t as much resuscitated the business, as fitted it with new organs and given it a new purpose in life. What started as a three-year plan to prepare the estate for sale has become a long-term project to create a multi-brand group of companies featuring best-in-class operations in a number of vertical markets.

CHANGING DIRECTION
"Three years ago Fitness First Germany was in a very difficult state," Seibold says. "There was no clear vision or philosophy, and there was confusion over what the strategy was.

"There had been attempts to introduce new services and enter new segments – such as the launch of a boutique offering, efforts to move into the mind and body segment and to enter the digital space. But these had led to a further loss of focus on what the core product was.

"There wasn’t any innovation at the clubs either. The estate had some great locations and people, but the sites were full of outdated equipment."

Seibold set out to modernise the network. Most of the changes he instigated were simple – such as ditching the "garish brown and magenta" colour scheme, installing wifi access at every club and making sure equipment and programming were brought up to date.

In total, €15m was spent across the 60+-strong club portfolio, while around €6m of ‘unnecessary costs’ were taken out of the operation.

"Within 18 months we’d turned Fitness First Germany from an operator with an outdated offer to one which is at the forefront of innovation," Seibold said of the changes. "Our strategy was to be the operator that gets there first when it comes to new kit."

CHOOSING A FUTURE PATH
Once it was clear the company was back on track, its private equity owner Oaktree Capital was faced with a choice: what to do next? Should it continue to prepare the estate for sale, or adopt a different approach?

During discussions, an option which had recently been tested – and proven – on the other side of the world was brought up.

"I sat down with Federico Alvarez-Demalde, the senior VP at Oaktree, to consider our options," Seibold says. "He suggested that we might want to look at how Greg Oliver had grown a portfolio of fitness brands in Australia."

Oaktree was very familiar with Oliver’s Fitness & Lifestyle Group (FLG). Oaktree had sold Fitness First Australia to FLG in 2016 and kept a minority stake in the business. Since then, FLG has acquired a number of operators and become Asia-Pacific’s largest diversified fitness and wellness group with a portfolio that includes nine brands and around 500 sites.

Seibold recalls the conversation: "Federico said ‘Martin, fly to Australia and speak to Greg and his team. Check it out. If you come back and say that we can do in Germany what they’ve done there, we’ll go for it’."

STUDY VISIT
Seibold visited FLG in May 2018, spoke to Oliver and met the MDs of all the individual brands.

"It was an eye-opener," Seibold says. "Gathering existing, strong brands under one roof made perfect sense.

"Firstly, they could centralise a lot of the processes and leverage the cost base. Secondly, they were able to offer consumers recognised premium, budget and boutique studios without the need to build separate brands from scratch.

"Thirdly, it offered them flexibility in organising the estate. FLG had converted and ‘downgraded’ some of the smaller Fitness First clubs to run under the Goodlife brand – but also upgraded some of the larger Goodlife site to be branded Fitness First."

Seibold had made up his mind. "I came back, sat down with Oaktree and said ‘guys, we have to do this’."

GROWING AS A GROUP
Within six months of returning from his fact-finding mission, Seibold – with strong support from Oaktree – had negotiated the first deal. In December 2018, Fitness First acquired elbgym – a highly-regarded regional operator with three gyms in the city of Hamburg.

This was followed by the securing of rights to operate Barry’s Bootcamp in Germany and a deal to bring Dutch operator The Gym Society – headed by industry veteran Frank Polman – to Germany. Most recently, in July, a deal was struck to acquire budget operator Smile X and its 17 sites. The six-strong portfolio of companies is completed by the addition of digital fitness app NewMoove.

A new company – Life Fit Group – was then set up to oversee the six different brands, with Seibold named as CEO. The next stage will see the group expand in each segment.

Seibold says Frank Polman will be an asset in growing the business, due to his franchising experience gained from spreading the Curves brand across Europe. "We’re looking to franchise Elbgym, so its MD, Wilhelm Schröter, will be able to meet regularly with Frank and discuss strategy," Seibold says.

"That’s the beauty of what we’re doing – we aren’t just adding best-in-class brands, we are gathering best-in-class knowhow. As well as Frank’s franchising expertise, we have the boutique prowess of Barry’s Bootcamp and a deep understanding of the German budget market through Smile X and its strong management team, headed by Christian Müller.

"Life Fit’s management structure will reflect this – we’ll establish a round table system, where the individual CEOs of the companies come together to discuss our forward plans and to share their experiences."

As Life Fit prepares for the next, exciting stage, Seibold is keen to highlight the role played by Oaktree Capital – and especially Federico Alvarez-Demalde and his team. "As owners, they have been incredibly supportive and crucial in making this happen," Seibold says.

"Without Oaktree and its trust in me, our team and this process, it would not have been possible. The relationship we have is a great example of how private equity ownership can work and be a positive force in business."

Seibold has turned Fitness First Germany from an outdated offering to one at the forefront of innovation
Seibold has turned Fitness First Germany from an outdated offering to one at the forefront of innovation
Seibold and the teams across all the Fitness First Germany clubs have resuscitated the business
Seibold and the teams across all the Fitness First Germany clubs have resuscitated the business
Seibold’s strategy was to always have the newest kit
Seibold’s strategy was to always have the newest kit
Fitness First Germany’s private equity owner, Oaktree Capital, decided to build a diverse portfolio of fitness brands
Fitness First Germany’s private equity owner, Oaktree Capital, decided to build a diverse portfolio of fitness brands
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/imagesX/677431_906315.jpg
After reviving Fitness First Germany, Seibold is building a portfolio of fitness brands under new company, Life Fit Group
Martin Seibold, CEO Life Fit Group ,Martin Seibold, Life Fit Group,
People
Kate Cracknell talks connected health and digital transformation with Chris Blackwell-Frost, Martin Friend and Rick Crawford from Nuffield Health’s senior management team
People
HCM people

Professor Zhen Yan

director of the Center for Skeletal Muscle Research, University of Virginia
Regular exercise may help people survive COVID-19
People
HCM people

Dr Jonathan Leary

Remedy Place, West Hollywood: Founder and CEO
Remedy Place teaches people how to take care of themselves and gives them the tools they need to be holistically healthy
Features
Software
With the coronavirus pandemic forcing gyms across the world to temporarily close their doors, staying connected to your members digitally has never been more important. Software suppliers tell Steph Eaves how they’re contributing
Features
Supplier showcase
Wattbike has partnered with Intelligent Cycling to transform indoor cycling with innovative new technology that enables automatic personalisation for riders in a group cycling class
Features
Insight
Industry analyst David Minton launched his new fitNdata global monitor just in time to catch the headline numbers for the impact of the coronavirus on the sector. He tells us how it’s looking
Features
Promotional feature
Reaching members anywhere and anytime to connect, engage and coach is more important than ever and can easily be activated through Technogym Mywellness
Features
feature
Matrix Connected Solutions helps Roko deliver a digital member experience beyond the four walls of the clubs
Features
Supplier showcase
With the spread of COVID-19 forcing more people into isolation, PureGym worked with FunXtion to rapidly include a digital on-demand workout offering to support members at home
Features
Innovation
With members stuck at home, now’s the perfect time to plan some cost-effective upgrades to your clubs. Suppliers explain how a flooring refresh could help attract members back in-club as the pandemic eases
Features
Latest News
David Lloyd Leisure (DLL) has reopened 50 of its clubs for socially distanced outdoor exercise. ...
Latest News
The Beau Sejour leisure centre on the island of Guernsey has become the first public ...
Latest News
Mike Lamb CEO, Asia of Jetts 24 Hour Fitness, which has clubs in south-east Asia, ...
Latest News
The varying approaches taken by the UK's four home nations to reopening businesses is creating ...
Latest News
DataHub has launched a contact tracking app, specifically designed for the fitness and physical activity ...
Latest News
ukactive has questioned the government's decision to make all employers start paying towards the wages ...
Latest News
A study on how exercise changes the body at a molecular level has suggested that ...
Job search
POST YOUR JOB
Opinion
promotion
Hedgehog Concept Ltd has developed software that allows its clients to track usage and customer volume on a minute to minute basis.
Opinion: Is your software fit for COVID-19?
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Gympass partners with Wexer to launch on-demand workouts for operators
Gympass has launched Gympass Plus - including an on-demand platform powered by Wexer - for its 2,200+ operator partners. The platform comprises more than 500 workouts from 18 content providers including Zumba and Gaiam.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: myFitApp launches branded live-streaming as part of its COVID-19 support package
Innovatise, the company behind myFitApp, has announced the immediate availability of its customer- branded live-streaming solution.
Video Gallery
Technogym mywellness app
Technogym
Improve your training experience. All your data in a single app. Read more
More videos:
    Company profiles
    Company profile: Matrix Fitness
    Matrix strives to offer equipment that will captivate your members, is easy to maintain, and ...
    Company profiles
    Company profile: Stages Indoor Cycling
    Stages Indoor Cycling is a product and technology company that is 100% focused on creating ...
    Catalogue Gallery
    Click on a catalogue to view it online
    Directory
    Flooring
    Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
    Direct debit solutions
    Harlands Group: Direct debit solutions
    Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
    Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
    Lockers/interior design
    Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
    Locking solutions
    Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
    Management software
    Fisikal: Management software
    Independent service & maintenance
    Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
    Trade associations
    International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
    Spa software
    SpaBooker: Spa software
    Skincare
    Sothys: Skincare
    Property & Tenders
    Greywell, Hampshire
    Barnsgrove Health and Wellness Club
    Property & Tenders
    Derby City Council
    Property & Tenders
    Diary dates
    13 Jun 2020
    Worldwide, Various,
    Diary dates
    06-07 Jul 2020
    Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, United Kingdom
    Diary dates
    28-31 Aug 2020
    Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
    Diary dates
    21-24 Sep 2020
    Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
    Diary dates
    01-02 Oct 2020
    Whittlebury Hall, Whittlebury, United Kingdom
    Diary dates
    11-12 Oct 2020
    ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
    Diary dates
    17-23 Oct 2020
    Pinggu, Beijing, China
    Diary dates
    27-30 Oct 2020
    Messe Stuttgart, Germany
    Diary dates
    30-31 Oct 2020
    NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
    Diary dates
    27-28 Nov 2020
    Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
    Diary dates

    features

    HCM People: Martin SeiboldCEO Life Fit Group

    Gathering existing, strong brands under one roof to create the new Life Fit Group made perfect sense

    Published in Health Club Management 2019 issue 8
    After turning around Fitness First UK, Seibold was called back to do the same in Germany
    After turning around Fitness First UK, Seibold was called back to do the same in Germany

    The newly-launched Life Fit Group aims to have a presence in each of Germany’s booming fitness segments. CEO Martin Seibold says reviving the fortunes of Fitness First acted as the starting gun for the business.

    Seibold is becoming somewhat of a turnaround specialist. In 2006, the then MD of Fitness First Germany was transferred to Fitness First UK, named its COO and tasked with turning the business around. After a successful two-year project, he was rewarded with a promotion to a global role.

    When the UK business found itself in trouble again just a few years later, its private equity owner Oaktree Capital called Seibold back – this time as MD. Between 2012 and 2017 he again revived Fitness First UK, this time through a £40m+ transformation programme that repositioned the chain by nudging it upmarket and reducing the estate from 185 clubs to just 65.

    After helping Oaktree sell the UK business to DW Fitness in 2016 he was then – in May 2017 – called on to perform a similar turnaround of Fitness First Germany.

    In the two years since, he and the teams across the clubs haven’t as much resuscitated the business, as fitted it with new organs and given it a new purpose in life. What started as a three-year plan to prepare the estate for sale has become a long-term project to create a multi-brand group of companies featuring best-in-class operations in a number of vertical markets.

    CHANGING DIRECTION
    "Three years ago Fitness First Germany was in a very difficult state," Seibold says. "There was no clear vision or philosophy, and there was confusion over what the strategy was.

    "There had been attempts to introduce new services and enter new segments – such as the launch of a boutique offering, efforts to move into the mind and body segment and to enter the digital space. But these had led to a further loss of focus on what the core product was.

    "There wasn’t any innovation at the clubs either. The estate had some great locations and people, but the sites were full of outdated equipment."

    Seibold set out to modernise the network. Most of the changes he instigated were simple – such as ditching the "garish brown and magenta" colour scheme, installing wifi access at every club and making sure equipment and programming were brought up to date.

    In total, €15m was spent across the 60+-strong club portfolio, while around €6m of ‘unnecessary costs’ were taken out of the operation.

    "Within 18 months we’d turned Fitness First Germany from an operator with an outdated offer to one which is at the forefront of innovation," Seibold said of the changes. "Our strategy was to be the operator that gets there first when it comes to new kit."

    CHOOSING A FUTURE PATH
    Once it was clear the company was back on track, its private equity owner Oaktree Capital was faced with a choice: what to do next? Should it continue to prepare the estate for sale, or adopt a different approach?

    During discussions, an option which had recently been tested – and proven – on the other side of the world was brought up.

    "I sat down with Federico Alvarez-Demalde, the senior VP at Oaktree, to consider our options," Seibold says. "He suggested that we might want to look at how Greg Oliver had grown a portfolio of fitness brands in Australia."

    Oaktree was very familiar with Oliver’s Fitness & Lifestyle Group (FLG). Oaktree had sold Fitness First Australia to FLG in 2016 and kept a minority stake in the business. Since then, FLG has acquired a number of operators and become Asia-Pacific’s largest diversified fitness and wellness group with a portfolio that includes nine brands and around 500 sites.

    Seibold recalls the conversation: "Federico said ‘Martin, fly to Australia and speak to Greg and his team. Check it out. If you come back and say that we can do in Germany what they’ve done there, we’ll go for it’."

    STUDY VISIT
    Seibold visited FLG in May 2018, spoke to Oliver and met the MDs of all the individual brands.

    "It was an eye-opener," Seibold says. "Gathering existing, strong brands under one roof made perfect sense.

    "Firstly, they could centralise a lot of the processes and leverage the cost base. Secondly, they were able to offer consumers recognised premium, budget and boutique studios without the need to build separate brands from scratch.

    "Thirdly, it offered them flexibility in organising the estate. FLG had converted and ‘downgraded’ some of the smaller Fitness First clubs to run under the Goodlife brand – but also upgraded some of the larger Goodlife site to be branded Fitness First."

    Seibold had made up his mind. "I came back, sat down with Oaktree and said ‘guys, we have to do this’."

    GROWING AS A GROUP
    Within six months of returning from his fact-finding mission, Seibold – with strong support from Oaktree – had negotiated the first deal. In December 2018, Fitness First acquired elbgym – a highly-regarded regional operator with three gyms in the city of Hamburg.

    This was followed by the securing of rights to operate Barry’s Bootcamp in Germany and a deal to bring Dutch operator The Gym Society – headed by industry veteran Frank Polman – to Germany. Most recently, in July, a deal was struck to acquire budget operator Smile X and its 17 sites. The six-strong portfolio of companies is completed by the addition of digital fitness app NewMoove.

    A new company – Life Fit Group – was then set up to oversee the six different brands, with Seibold named as CEO. The next stage will see the group expand in each segment.

    Seibold says Frank Polman will be an asset in growing the business, due to his franchising experience gained from spreading the Curves brand across Europe. "We’re looking to franchise Elbgym, so its MD, Wilhelm Schröter, will be able to meet regularly with Frank and discuss strategy," Seibold says.

    "That’s the beauty of what we’re doing – we aren’t just adding best-in-class brands, we are gathering best-in-class knowhow. As well as Frank’s franchising expertise, we have the boutique prowess of Barry’s Bootcamp and a deep understanding of the German budget market through Smile X and its strong management team, headed by Christian Müller.

    "Life Fit’s management structure will reflect this – we’ll establish a round table system, where the individual CEOs of the companies come together to discuss our forward plans and to share their experiences."

    As Life Fit prepares for the next, exciting stage, Seibold is keen to highlight the role played by Oaktree Capital – and especially Federico Alvarez-Demalde and his team. "As owners, they have been incredibly supportive and crucial in making this happen," Seibold says.

    "Without Oaktree and its trust in me, our team and this process, it would not have been possible. The relationship we have is a great example of how private equity ownership can work and be a positive force in business."

    Seibold has turned Fitness First Germany from an outdated offering to one at the forefront of innovation
    Seibold has turned Fitness First Germany from an outdated offering to one at the forefront of innovation
    Seibold and the teams across all the Fitness First Germany clubs have resuscitated the business
    Seibold and the teams across all the Fitness First Germany clubs have resuscitated the business
    Seibold’s strategy was to always have the newest kit
    Seibold’s strategy was to always have the newest kit
    Fitness First Germany’s private equity owner, Oaktree Capital, decided to build a diverse portfolio of fitness brands
    Fitness First Germany’s private equity owner, Oaktree Capital, decided to build a diverse portfolio of fitness brands
    http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/imagesX/677431_906315.jpg
    After reviving Fitness First Germany, Seibold is building a portfolio of fitness brands under new company, Life Fit Group
    Martin Seibold, CEO Life Fit Group ,Martin Seibold, Life Fit Group,
    Latest News
    David Lloyd Leisure (DLL) has reopened 50 of its clubs for socially distanced outdoor exercise. ...
    Latest News
    The Beau Sejour leisure centre on the island of Guernsey has become the first public ...
    Latest News
    Mike Lamb CEO, Asia of Jetts 24 Hour Fitness, which has clubs in south-east Asia, ...
    Latest News
    The varying approaches taken by the UK's four home nations to reopening businesses is creating ...
    Latest News
    DataHub has launched a contact tracking app, specifically designed for the fitness and physical activity ...
    Latest News
    ukactive has questioned the government's decision to make all employers start paying towards the wages ...
    Latest News
    A study on how exercise changes the body at a molecular level has suggested that ...
    Latest News
    A new industry support association, Fitness United, launches today (1 June) to bring suppliers and ...
    Latest News
    Corporate broking and advisory firm, Peel Hunt, has issued a 'buy' recommendation for shares in ...
    Latest News
    Health club chain 24 Hour Fitness has reopened some of its sites in Texas and ...
    Job search
    POST YOUR JOB
    Opinion
    promotion
    Hedgehog Concept Ltd has developed software that allows its clients to track usage and customer volume on a minute to minute basis.
    Opinion: Is your software fit for COVID-19?
    Featured supplier news
    Featured supplier: Gympass partners with Wexer to launch on-demand workouts for operators
    Gympass has launched Gympass Plus - including an on-demand platform powered by Wexer - for its 2,200+ operator partners. The platform comprises more than 500 workouts from 18 content providers including Zumba and Gaiam.
    Featured supplier news
    Featured supplier: myFitApp launches branded live-streaming as part of its COVID-19 support package
    Innovatise, the company behind myFitApp, has announced the immediate availability of its customer- branded live-streaming solution.
    Video Gallery
    Technogym mywellness app
    Technogym
    Improve your training experience. All your data in a single app. Read more
    More videos:
      Company profiles
      Company profile: Matrix Fitness
      Matrix strives to offer equipment that will captivate your members, is easy to maintain, and ...
      Company profiles
      Company profile: Stages Indoor Cycling
      Stages Indoor Cycling is a product and technology company that is 100% focused on creating ...
      Catalogue Gallery
      Click on a catalogue to view it online
      Directory
      Flooring
      Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
      Direct debit solutions
      Harlands Group: Direct debit solutions
      Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
      Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
      Lockers/interior design
      Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
      Locking solutions
      Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
      Management software
      Fisikal: Management software
      Independent service & maintenance
      Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
      Trade associations
      International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
      Spa software
      SpaBooker: Spa software
      Skincare
      Sothys: Skincare
      Property & Tenders
      Greywell, Hampshire
      Barnsgrove Health and Wellness Club
      Property & Tenders
      Derby City Council
      Property & Tenders
      Diary dates
      13 Jun 2020
      Worldwide, Various,
      Diary dates
      06-07 Jul 2020
      Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, United Kingdom
      Diary dates
      28-31 Aug 2020
      Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
      Diary dates
      21-24 Sep 2020
      Loews Coronado Bay Resort, Coronado, United States
      Diary dates
      01-02 Oct 2020
      Whittlebury Hall, Whittlebury, United Kingdom
      Diary dates
      11-12 Oct 2020
      ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
      Diary dates
      17-23 Oct 2020
      Pinggu, Beijing, China
      Diary dates
      27-30 Oct 2020
      Messe Stuttgart, Germany
      Diary dates
      30-31 Oct 2020
      NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
      Diary dates
      27-28 Nov 2020
      Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
      Diary dates
      Search news, features & products:
      Find a supplier:
      Technogym
      Technogym