Branson Eyes Up Chiswick Riverside Club Bid

Virgin Active reported to be considering Esporta takeover

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Troubled health chain group Esporta could be taken over by Sir Richard Branson according to a report in the Sunday Times.

It is thought that he is in advanced talks to acquire the chain with a view to merging it with his Virgin Active group.

Esporta currently owns 55 clubs including the Riverside Club and the gym in Chiswick Business Park. It is currently owned by French Bank Societe Generale who took over the business after the previous owners were unable to repay their loans.

They have been looking for a buyer for over two years and have reportedly been in talks with both LA Fitness and Bannatyne Fitness, which is owned by Dragons' Den star Duncan Bannatyne. Due to lack of interest in the group the bank are believed to be separating the freehold of the properties from the management of the clubs, which would reduce the overall cost to Virgin.

Previously Virgin Active took over the Holmes Place chain of clubs and rebranded them. If the deal goes ahead the group, which is 76% owned by Branson, would have 120 fitness venues.

There is likely to be a mixed response from Riverside members, many of whom were not satisfied with the management of the club by Esporta. They are likely to want reassurance that standards will be maintained by Virgin and that memberships won't be over-discounted leading to overcrowing of the facilities.

April 18, 2011