Body-Solid founders semi-retire, hand over the reins

Earl Shraiberg is the first to say that Body-Solid needs a younger, more aggressive management after he and his partners have held the reins since founding it 17 years ago.

Earl Shraiberg is the first to say that Body-Solid needs a younger, more aggressive management after he and his partners have held the reins since founding it 17 years ago.

Instead of waiting, however, for the company to take a financial dive, Shraiberg, at the ripe young age of 55, has named a team that will "take the company into another era," as he put it.

Scott McDonald, 42, who was hired about a year ago as CFO, and Stuart Glenn, 39, who has run the Fitness Factory branch of the business since that was begun 18 years ago, have been named co-CEOs, effective June 20.

"We are stepping back from day-to-day operations," Shraiberg told SNEWS®, referring to himself and his partners, Tony Tsai and Steve Kuly. "Body-Solid is an incredible company with an incredible foundation for these two to build on."

McDonald and Glenn said their partnership is perfect, and from the start they have been "incredibly complementary."

"We get the best of both worlds," McDonald said, "with myself being an outside person and Stu (Glenn) bringing a tremendous amount of industry perspective.

"Together, we're going to be an excellent team," McDonald added.

McDonald came to Body-Solid a year ago after having worked as a combination CFO and COO at smaller companies and has a formal business education. Glenn started to work for Shraiberg when he was 21, working for Shraiberg and his wife Joyce when they owned the first fitness specialty store in Chicago, the Shape-Up Shop, which they had opened in 1978. He basically, as he puts it, grew up in the industry and under Shraiberg's tutelage.

"We've all worked together a long period of time, and we all have different skills," Glenn said.

Certainly the Forest Park, Ill.-based, company has already been working on product updates, with the entire line scheduled to have been through the update mill by the Health & Fitness Business show in August. But that's not enough, Shraiberg said.

"I'm not the core customer anymore," he explained. "It's time for the company to have a little younger feel to it."

Not as if Shraiberg, who admits he IS Body-Solid, is planning to disappear soon -- especially since he has been the face of the company as well as the person who mostly spoke for the company. He said he and his partners will continue as a board of directors, remain as majority stockholders, and will be available for consulting and to discuss plans and product.

"I'll be around," he said. In fact, time will tell how quickly and easily Shraiberg can semi-retire since he's the first to say that his brain works all day every day. But the Chicago-area native said it's always been a goal to retire early. He said he plans to mentor and to teach under-privileged children so he can offer insights and direction to kids who might face some of the same tough choices he did growing up.

"I am the luckiest person in the entire world," Shraiberg said. "I have an incredible wife. I have incredible kids. I have an incredible business, and I have my health. What more do I need?"

As McDonald and Glenn take over as day-to-day managers, Shraiberg said he will still pop in a couple of days a week.

"I'll stick my head in the door and ask my employees how their children are and what's going on in their lives," he said. He also said he plans to show up at the August show for one day.

Over the years, Shraiberg said he was approached many times about selling the company -- and could have done just that. But he and his partners couldn't take that step.

"This company feeds 75 families," he said. "The partners have enough."

SNEWS® View: We admire Shraiberg for having the foresight to not get in the way of his own creation before it was too late. We also must tip our hats to someone who didn't bow down to the powerful forces of the dollar, choosing instead to keep the business nearly as a member of the family rather than sell it. As the industry develops, it'll be interesting to see how long that position can be maintained as the industry develops and continues to consolidate. But more power to them for their goals and discipline. It'll be hard to imagine Body-Solid without Shraiberg, but he is wasting no time getting on with his other plans because, as he told us, "Life is short."


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