So is it for sale or is it not? Omni Fitness, the country's largest specialty fitness retail chain, has been rumored on and off for months to be on the market by Brunswick Corp., its owner since March 2001 and also parent of Life Fitness. Responses to that rumor vary slightly. Omni President Rick Griner told SNEWS, "In today's world most anything is for sale if the price is right," but otherwise declined more detail. Brunswick spokesman Dan Kubera declined comment, saying only, "We wouldn't comment if we were looking at an acquisition or if we were looking at a sale, rumor, pending or otherwise." When Kubera asked how Omni was doing for Brunswick, he said he'd "have to check." A few moments later he said, "We've been happy with Omni."
SNEWS View: The latest go-round of this rumor is that the chain has been on the market since about November. That may have been sparked, insiders say, by Omni selling six Ohio stores to The Fitness Experience chain, also owner since August of the former Exercare chain. It seems that TFE as a Life dealer wanted to put Life equipment in the Exercare stores but that several were nearby or around the corner from Life Fitness-dealer Omni. So a deal was forged, leaving TFE with the nearby Omni stores to do with as it deemed best. Now a look at The Fitness Experience's website shows five stores in Ohio named "Omni's Fitness Experience" -- Akron, Columbia, Dublin, Pepper Pike and Westlake.
Company insiders have told SNEWS that Brunswick isn't likely interested in piecing apart the chain. But others have told SNEWS that it wouldn't be a surprise for the chain to be sold off since it wasn't likely meant as a long-term relationship. Perhaps Griner is feeling some pressure from its parent for more sales performance. Or perhaps he's just tired of hearing the same rumor every time he turns around and soothing worried vendors. Meanwhile, we hear from others who are close to a possible buyer that this possible buyer is indeed sizing up the chain -- or some part of it -- for purchase. Now, even if Brunswick doesn't formally have a for-sale sign up, that doesn't mean somebody or several somebodies can't waltz in and offer some money, right? And, as Griner said, if the price is rightâ€¦.
And food for thought: We find it odd that Griner told SNEWS in an interview nearly a year ago that Omni had developed a plan to add 12 to 15 stores in the next year in the regions where it currently operates, and to continue to add about 12 to 15 per year in coming years. We know delays can happen, but they are falling behind now, aren't they?
Lastly, let's look at Brunswick spokesman Kubera's comment that he'd "have to check" how the chain was doing. Have to check? Any PR person worth his or her salt would never leave that kind of gap in a door, one that will now allow in yet more questions.