GET HCM
magazine
Sign up for the FREE digital edition of HCM magazine and also get the HCM ezine and breaking news email alerts.
Not right now, thanksclose this window
Les Mills International
Les Mills International
Les Mills International
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
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."

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
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
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/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,
HCM magazine
Can partnerships and affiliations with less obvious companies, such as fast food brands, help the industry tap into a new demographic, or is the potential for them to compromise our reputation too big a risk to take? asks Abi Harris
HCM magazine
Armah Sports has revealed the first B_fit health club – a smart club concept that’s gearing up for the Metaverse with AI, VR, Amazon Alexa and the Internet of Things, as Tom Walker reports
HCM magazine
HCM People

Alan Leach

Chair of IHRSA and CEO, West Wood Clubs
IHRSA is now on a mission to bring the global industry together
HCM Magazine
Promotion
A new app called Trakk, from Pulse Fitness, promises triple benefits to operators, says Chris Johnson
HCM Magazine
Interview
The CEO of Total Fitness has been in-post for just over three years – a true tale of two halves, with dramatic growth in the first half of her tenure, followed by a second half dominated by the pandemic and a CVA. She talks to Kate Cracknell
HCM Magazine
HCM People
There’s still no ‘stress resilience’ profession. We believe fitness professionals can fill that gap
HCM Magazine
Insight
Which messaging is most effective at inspiring people to get active and why? Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada set out to find out, as Tom Walker reports
HCM Magazine
Sponsored
Life Fitness is introducing a new range of Hammer Strength anaerobic equipment to complement its legendary strength training range
HCM Magazine
Sponsored
Technogym’s Biocircuit offers a range of time-controlled and time-free circuits using the Biostrength line, with its Biodrive AI technology, delivering customised workouts
HCM Magazine
Interview
Urban Gym Group sees health, fitness and wellness converging and is ready to seize these opportunities. Its co-CEOs tell to Kate Cracknell, ‘if we can’t build it, we’ll buy it’
HCM Magazine
Latest News
Wellness tech firm Timeshifter has launched a new circadian app for shift workers, allowing them ...
Latest News
Sport England says it's introducing "new and innovative" ways to increase participation – by doing ...
Latest News
Denmark has been identified as the cheapest country in the world to live a healthy ...
Latest News
Boxx has launched a new generation punch bag and smart punch trackers that work with ...
Latest News
The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) and BBC Storyworks have struck up a partnership to create ...
Latest News
The global wellness economy will grow by 9.9 per cent annually and reach US$7trn by ...
Latest News
Inclusive Fitness Boston, a health club created specifically for those with disabilities and their families, ...
Latest News
The Women in Fitness Association (WIFA), is partnering with Sport Alliance to undertake a survey ...
Opinion
promotion
FitnessOnDemand’s divisional vice president Uday Anumalachetty discusses what live fitness really means for clubs and their members today
Opinion: Why we need to reimagine what live fitness really means
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Revamped Fitline Maassluis health club equipped by Core Health & Fitness
An iconic Dutch fitness centre that first opened 32 years ago has received an extensive overhaul following a vicious fire.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Precor reaffirms itself in premium sector with introduction of two new cardio range colours
Fitness equipment manufacturer Precor has launched two sleek new colours for its cardio range; Black Pearl and Storm Grey.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active successfully reopens exercise referral scheme thanks to EXi partnership
Local authority leisure provider Everyone Active has reopened its essential exercise referral scheme, by joining forces with EXi, the NHS-approved exercise prescription app and data portal.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Sporting heroes to officially open £22 million redevelopment at Everyone Active centre
A £22 million redevelopment project will be unveiled at Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre, as part of the official launch of the state-of-the-art centre.
Company profiles
Company profile: EMD UK
EMD UK is the national governing body for group exercise. Funded by Sport England, EMD ...
Company profiles
Company profile: FunXtion International BV
With our digital member solutions, branded app and branded virtual classes your clients can now ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Skincare
Comfort Zone - Davines S.p.A: Skincare
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Exercise equipment
Power Plate: Exercise equipment
trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: trade associations
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Red Light Therapy
 Red Light Rising: Red Light Therapy
Salt therapy products
Himalayan Source: Salt therapy products
Whole body cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Whole body cryotherapy
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Property & Tenders
Welwyn Garden City
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council
Property & Tenders
Newport, Shropshire
Lilleshall Sports Academy
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
01-03 Feb 2022
Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates
07-10 Apr 2022
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
15-16 Jun 2022
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
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."

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
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
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/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
Wellness tech firm Timeshifter has launched a new circadian app for shift workers, allowing them ...
Latest News
Sport England says it's introducing "new and innovative" ways to increase participation – by doing ...
Latest News
Denmark has been identified as the cheapest country in the world to live a healthy ...
Latest News
Boxx has launched a new generation punch bag and smart punch trackers that work with ...
Latest News
The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) and BBC Storyworks have struck up a partnership to create ...
Latest News
The global wellness economy will grow by 9.9 per cent annually and reach US$7trn by ...
Latest News
Inclusive Fitness Boston, a health club created specifically for those with disabilities and their families, ...
Latest News
The Women in Fitness Association (WIFA), is partnering with Sport Alliance to undertake a survey ...
Latest News
Location and cost are the top considerations for consumers when it comes to choosing a ...
Latest News
Increases in COVID-19 cases across Europe are forcing governments to introduce restrictions, which is having ...
Latest News
Exercise has been found to increase levels of endocannabinoids – cannabis-like substances produced by the ...
Opinion
promotion
FitnessOnDemand’s divisional vice president Uday Anumalachetty discusses what live fitness really means for clubs and their members today
Opinion: Why we need to reimagine what live fitness really means
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Revamped Fitline Maassluis health club equipped by Core Health & Fitness
An iconic Dutch fitness centre that first opened 32 years ago has received an extensive overhaul following a vicious fire.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Precor reaffirms itself in premium sector with introduction of two new cardio range colours
Fitness equipment manufacturer Precor has launched two sleek new colours for its cardio range; Black Pearl and Storm Grey.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active successfully reopens exercise referral scheme thanks to EXi partnership
Local authority leisure provider Everyone Active has reopened its essential exercise referral scheme, by joining forces with EXi, the NHS-approved exercise prescription app and data portal.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Sporting heroes to officially open £22 million redevelopment at Everyone Active centre
A £22 million redevelopment project will be unveiled at Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre, as part of the official launch of the state-of-the-art centre.
Company profiles
Company profile: EMD UK
EMD UK is the national governing body for group exercise. Funded by Sport England, EMD ...
Company profiles
Company profile: FunXtion International BV
With our digital member solutions, branded app and branded virtual classes your clients can now ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Skincare
Comfort Zone - Davines S.p.A: Skincare
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Exercise equipment
Power Plate: Exercise equipment
trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: trade associations
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Red Light Therapy
 Red Light Rising: Red Light Therapy
Salt therapy products
Himalayan Source: Salt therapy products
Whole body cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Whole body cryotherapy
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Property & Tenders
Welwyn Garden City
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council
Property & Tenders
Newport, Shropshire
Lilleshall Sports Academy
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
01-03 Feb 2022
Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates
07-10 Apr 2022
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
15-16 Jun 2022
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
Search news, features & products:
Find a supplier:
Les Mills International
Les Mills International
Partner sites