Med-Fit acquires ‘iconic’ Nautilus commercial assets, to expand dealer network

Med-Fit Systems will expand the Nautilus commercial dealer network and keep the Virginia manufacturing for the Nautilus commercial line, which it has acquired. We spoke to Med-Fit about its plans.
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Med-Fit Systems, a specialist in physical therapy and long-term care equipment, has acquired the remaining commercial assets of Nautilus and plans to expand the dealer network, introduce new equipment, and keep most strength manufacturing in Virginia.

The deal, which was announced Feb. 19 by Med-Fit, finalizes the retrenching of the Nautilus company (NYSE: NLS) to an all-retail and -direct business and fulfills the Nautilus announcement in September 2009 that it would sell its commercial business unit. In December, certain assets of the StairMaster and Schwinn brands were acquired by Xiamen World Gear Sports Goods, which is an affiliate of manufacturer Land America. (Click here to see a Dec. 18, 2009, SNEWS story, “Fit Dragon unveiled as Land America taking over Nautilus commercial as Core Fitness.”) 

“The Nautilus name is iconic,” Med-Fit CEO Dean Sbragia told SNEWS®. “It’s a brand you don’t want to die. And it’s not just the name. It’s the design. It’s the biomechanics. It’s the Arthur Jones mentality.”

Already at the coming IHRSA show in San Diego, Calif., March 11-13, the company (www.medfitsystems.com) will display about six prototypes of new pieces, he said, about half and half strength and cardio. The exhibit, however, will be at a neighboring hotel since the close of the deal was so close to the show that Sbragia said he wanted to focus on customer service and product fulfillment rather than divert energy to preparing a booth.

“You’ll see several new product lines,” he said, mentioning a four-stack strength piece, a dual-function piece, and an expanded cardiovascular offering. “We have an ambitious engineering schedule.”

Sbragia said his 23-year-old, privately owned company has been a Nautilus equipment distributor for all of its 23 years. When he said he heard Nautilus planned to divest itself of its commercial business, he inquired about acquiring some of the tooling and patents. About half of his Med-Fit business is Nautilus or other Nautilus brands, he said, of which he is a huge fan due to the biomechanics of it, particular key for long-term care and rehabilitation businesses.

After more than five months, the deal was sealed, which included 31 patents and purchasing the long-time manufacturing facility in Independence, Va., which was also announced Feb. 19 in a Med-Fit statement to the regional Grayson County, Va., business region.

“Nautilus has experienced international manufacturing success in Grayson County for more than three decades,” said Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, in a statement. “We are pleased to know that success will continue under Med-Fit Systems.”

Grayson County helped retain the Nautilus operations there by supporting a $1.9 million low-interest loan through the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority.

Sbragia told SNEWS the company plans to keep manufacturing most of the strength equipment in Virginia, even expanding the plant, while most of the cardiovascular equipment’s manufacturing will remain in China.

In addition, the company will be actively looking to expand the dealer network. As of now, the company has inherited about five in-house sales employees from Nautilus. “We’re happy to speak with the fitness retailers in the various locales,” added Sbragia.

The Nautilus One and Nitro lines, among others, deserve more attention than they have received, he said.

“Nautilus didn’t pay a lot of attention to the commercial business,” he said. “It’s a viable, vibrant business with a name second-to-none.

“There should be a lot more energy in this company,” he continued. “Our energies are focused now 100 percent on this brand.”

--Therese Iknoian

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