Virgin Active acquires Real Foods Group

Virgin Active has announced that Dean Kowarski, founder of The Real Foods Group, has been appointed as its Group CEO.

Dean started the Real Foods Group in 2013 and acquired the Kauai business in 2015 and has subsequently grown the business from 100 stores to 204 stores. Dean has been active in, and has an in-depth understanding and passion for, the health and wellness space for many years. He also has had a close association with the Virgin Active business.

Matthew Bucknall, who had previously announced his intention to retire 25 years after co-founding the business, will step down as CEO. He will remain as a special adviser to the Board and as a Non-Executive Director of Virgin Active Italy.

The new capital will be used to support the business’ ongoing recovery and to accelerate future growth.

The company has also announced that Mark Field, currently Managing Director of Virgin Active South Africa, will become Group CFO. He will take up this position once a new MD for Virgin Active South Africa has been appointed.

The existing shareholders of Virgin Active, Brait and Virgin Group, will be investing an additional £20.2 million (ZAR 399 077 760,35) in the business. In addition, certain of the members of the investor consortium in Real Foods will invest GBP18.2 (ZAR 359 572 566,63) million and Titan Premier Investments (Pty) Limited (“Titan”), an investment vehicle of Christo Wiese, will invest GBP50.0 million to become new shareholders in Virgin Active.

A portion of the funds will be used to invest in existing physical spaces, developing new product and service offerings, embracing digital and cutting-edge technologies and pioneering new innovations to improve customer experience and increase member engagement.

Virgin Active also separately announced that it has acquired the nutrition assets of The Real Foods Group for GBP28.6 million (ZAR 565 138 738,16). This acquisition is subject to a number of conditions precedent, including regulatory approvals, and is anticipated to be implemented in the second quarter of this year. Upon implementation, the Real Foods Group nutrition assets will be combined with Virgin Active to create a wellness group.

The pandemic has accelerated people’s appetite to lead a healthier lifestyle, and consumer demand is forecast to rise for the foreseeable future, creating significant growth potential. To support this demand most effectively, both foundations of wellness – fitness and nutrition – need to be addressed. A combined approach has the power to guard against preventable diseases and create a healthier society.

Venture Burn

Nichole Manhire

Is the media and brand manager at GFA News. She works very closely with editors and podcasters that contribute to telling the African business success story. For marketing and advertising send Nichole an email:

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