TPG Forms New Company to Capitalize on Boutique Fitness Craze

(Bloomberg) -- Private equity heavyweight TPG thinks there’s more money in sweat.

The firm’s growth-investing arm is continuing its push into the business of fitness with the acquisition of StretchLab and the creation of a new company, Xponential Fitness, to also encompass its purchases this year of Club Pilates and CycleBar, TPG partner Mark Grabowski said in an interview.

While fitness boutiques are flourishing in hometown cities and regions across the U.S. and in pockets around the world, operators and investors have so far failed to figure out how to create sizable businesses with a broad geographic footprint.

“There’s still a lot of big categories that don’t have a national franchise brand,” Grabowski said. He tapped Anthony Geisler, who’d already been running Club Pilates, as chief executive officer of Xponential.

A handful of private equity managers have identified fitness and wellness as a lucrative investment opportunity. Those firms have tended to be smaller specialty shops such as L Catterton, North Castle Partners and Falconhead Capital. TPG has about $73 billion across private equity, credit, real estate and hedge funds. The firm in 2007 formed TPG Growth to back companies at earlier stages than was typical for a traditional leveraged-buyout fund.

Grabowski joined TPG, with its main offices in San Francisco and Fort Worth, Texas, last year from L Catterton, where he worked on fitness deals including Peloton, CorePower Yoga and Pure Barre. TPG already owns a stake in gym operator Life Time Fitness, which it took private in 2015 with Leonard Green & Partners in a deal valued at more than $4 billion. In 2014, TPG Growth invested in Angie’s Artisan Treats, a maker of healthy snacks.

Geisler became CEO of Club Pilates after he bought the company in 2015. He previously owned LA Boxing, a franchise concept he sold to UFC Gym in 2013.

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Fitness Portfolio

Building a broad portfolio of fitness brands may allow TPG to take Xponential public at some point, helping solidify the category as one that a range of investors can back. Planet Fitness Inc. is among the few fitness companies to win over the stock market. The gym chain last month gained as much as 18 percent, its biggest move in more than two years, after beating profit and sales estimates.

Geisler said Xponential’s components will operate as independent brands: CycleBar, an indoor cycling studio chain; Club Pilates, which uses the traditional reformer equipment for workouts; and StretchLab, which leads classes in recovery and movement. Xponential aims to attract franchisees who may want to own several different exercise “modalities” in a single market, Grabowski said.

“There hasn’t been a lot of franchising so far in this industry, but we’ve been able to prove there’s real durability to the category,” Grabowski said. “The franchisees see not just an ability to pursue a passion, but to make real money, as well.”

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