Fitness First takeover leaves DW Sports with an £8m loss

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Ash­ley Arm­strong

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.