Esporta lines up €330m bid for Next Generation Clubs

BRITISH gym chain Esporta has confirmed that it is lining up a bid for Next Generation Clubs, the fitness business owned by a group of Irish investors.

Next Generation, which is 60% owned by John Magnier, JP McManus, Michael Tabor and Dermot Desmond, was put up for sale before Christmas. A takeover would cost around €330 million.

Neil Gillis, Esporta’s chief executive, said yesterday that a bid for Next Generation would be made next week. “We haven’t made a bid for Next Generation yet. The deadline is February 22, and we will be putting a bid in, definitely,” he said yesterday.

Esporta owns more than 50 gyms across Britain and the North.

It has been reported that Virgin boss Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Active gyms, is also interested in Next Generation as is Iranian property investor Robert Tchenguiz. A number of private equity bidders are also seen as potential buyers.

Next Generation was founded in 1996 by former tennis star David Lloyd and his son, Scott, the managing director, after selling their David Lloyd Leisure company to Whitbread.

The Lloyd family has a 10% stake in the company, while British brewer Scottish & Newcastle owns 15%. Former Wimbledon tennis champion Billie-Jean King is also a shareholder.

Next Generation’s chairman, Denis Brosnan, the former boss of Kerry Group, has a small stake.

Next Generation made pre-tax profits of €4.4m in 2004 on turnover of just over €50m.

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