Virgin Active Flexes Financial Muscles

In a £77.6m takeover deal of Esporta Health Clubs

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Virgin Active has flexed its financial muscles in a £77.6million deal to buy 55 Esporta gyms.

If approved by the Office of Fair Trading, the deal will almost double the size of Virgin's current group. It is expected that the Esporta gyms, which include those in Chiswick Riverside and Chiswick Business Park, will be rebranded within two years.

Esporta is currently owned by French Bank Societe Generale who took over the business after the previous owners were unable to repay their loans.

The troubled group had been looking for a buyer for over two years and were reportedly 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.

Virgin, which is majority-owned by Sir Richard Branson, described trading in 2011 as strong after it powered through the one million membership barrier for the first time.

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 26, 2011