Fitness First takeover leaves DW Sports with an £8m loss
THE business empire of Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan has swung to a loss after the takeover of gym chain Fitness First.
Sales at Dave Whelan Sports Ltd jumped nearly a third to £203m after scooping up more than 60 gyms under the Fitness First brand. However, the company swung from a £3.6m pre-tax profit to an £8m loss during the year to March 2017 as a result of costs associated with takeover.
The company’s debt also soared from £56m to £112m during the year after £48.4m of loans were provided to Mr Whelan, his daughter Jayne Best and his grandchildren.
The group’s accounts also reveal that, in July last year, the Whelan family injected £26m of capital into the business to repay other third-party loans. No dividend was awarded last year, compared to the £15m payout in 2016. The company’s accounts also reveal it pays £250,000 naming rights to Wigan Athletic for the venue to be called the DW Stadium.
Mr Whelan, who originally founded the now defunct JJB Sports retail chain, bought Wigan in 1995 and was chairman for 20 years before David Sharpe, his grandson, took over.
Mr Whelan, 81, struck a deal in October 2016 to buy 62 Fitness First venues in London and the South East amid plans to combine them with his existing 70 DW Sports gyms to become the second largest gym operator in the country, behind Pure Gym.
DW Sports now run 131 health clubs, 88 shops and one football club shop at Wigan Athletic.
There has been speculation that the entrepreneur could explore a stock market listing of the business later this year.
The company said that it was focused on “increasing revenues and profitability by investing in our new portfolio, attracting members and increasing membership retention”.
One in eight gym members sign up in January in a bid to lose weight gained over the Christmas period, according to industry figures.
However, around a quarter of members will throw in the towel after just 24 weeks.
Dave Whelan bought 62 Fitness First venues in October to add to his portfolio of 70 DW Sports gyms