Coolmore gang may sell gym chain

THE ‘Coolmore Mafia’ are poised to cash in on their stake in a chain of fitness clubs in Britain.

John Magnier, JP McManus, Dermot Desmond and Michael Tabor own 60% of the shares in Next Generation Clubs, which runs 14 fitness centres across Britain. The former Kerry group chief executive Denis Brosnan (Next Generation’s chairman) also has a stake.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed that investment bank UBS had been appointed to advise on its future options. These include an outright sale of the business.

According to some valuations, the company could be worth about €300 million, valuing the stake held by the Irish investors at €180m.

The pockets of the Coolmore gang have already swelled this year, after they sold their stake in Manchester United for a profit of €150m.

Though Next Generation has been acquisitive itself in recent years, it is still small compared to rivals, hence the need for a buyer.

One of the likely suitors for the company is Esporta. Its chief executive has already indicated his interest in buying Next Generation if it came on the market. Other potential buyers include Whitbred and Fitness First.

Any new owner would be buying a profitable and growing business. According to accounts filed at Companies House in London recently, Next Generation made pre-tax profits of €4.4m on turnover of just over €50m. It also owns all of its properties.

With the opening of new clubs and the takeover of London’s Harbour Club earlier in the year, profits are believed to have improved.

The Next Generation spokesperson said two more clubs would open next year in Leicester and Swindon and it was also on the lookout for more sites.

The company was established by former British tennis star David Lloyd, and is run by his son Scott, who is its managing director.

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

The spokesperson gave no timetable for UBS to complete their work, but there is unlikely to be any movement before next year.

Over the last year, the Coolmore operation has invested heavily in businesses in Britain.

They own the Barchester chain of nursing homes, which is said to be worth about €1 billion.

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