Taiwan-based Dyaco buys out Hurt family at Spirit Fitness

The founders of Spirit Fitness, the Hurt family, have sold their remaining 40 percent interest in the company to Dyaco International of Taiwan, which 18 months ago bought a controlling 60 percent interest in the Jonesboro, Ark.-based, company, Jay Hurt told SNEWS®.

The founders of Spirit Fitness, the Hurt family, have sold their remaining 40 percent interest in the company to Dyaco International of Taiwan, which 18 months ago bought a controlling 60 percent interest in the Jonesboro, Ark.-based, company, Jay Hurt told SNEWS®.

"We had sold the 60 percent stake to Dyaco and decided it was just time to get rid of the rest," said Jay Hurt, son of founders Rodger and Shirley Hurt. "Our family is excited to move on to new ventures."

Rodger and Shirley Hurt had semi-retired in October 2003 when Dyaco bought its controlling interest (see SNEWS® story, Jan. 15, 2004, "Taiwan-based Dyaco buys controlling interest in Spirit Fitness"). With the completion of this deal on March 25, 2005, they will fully retire, Jay Hurt said.

As part of the arrangement, the Hurt family will retain the facility and equipment and begin manufacturing products "outside of the fitness industry," Jay Hurt said. Although his parents will move on, he and his sister Grace, who have also worked with Spirit for a number of years, will stay on with the company during a transition phase before moving on.

"My sister and I will be with Spirit for a while and then will become involved in the new venture," Jay Hurt said.

Retailers shouldn't notice the shift in ownership too much, any more than they noticed it when Dyaco took on its controlling interest in 2003. John Gibbs, who has worked with Dyaco for nearly eight years, remains as president. Note that the Spirit Fitness website states "Spirit, a Dyaco company."

Jay Hurt said it should be "business as usual" for Spirit and its dealers, with the exception of some new product lines Spirit has introduced in the last year that will continue to be made in Taiwan. However, this marks the end of one of the few remaining family-owned, made-in-the-U.S.A, single-product companies upon which the Hurt family built its treadmill business.

"The company will continue as-is, with the company concentrating on specialty dealers while also looking at the sporting goods channel," he said. "Spirit will try to complete the product line for its dealers with bikes and ellipticals and more as it moves forward."

Dyaco (www.dyaco.com) of Taya, Taichung, in Taiwan first joined with Spirit in spring 2003 when the two companies forged a partnership to introduce additional lower-cost product made overseas. Dyaco was established in Taiwan in 1989 as a manufacturer and importer of home fitness equipment, a company backgrounder states; it began making motorized treadmills in 1998. With experience already in manufacturing retail and TV infomercial product, Dyaco management had decided that it needed to work with more U.S. manufacturers and attain more of a presence in North America, a decision that brought Dyaco and Spirit together.

SNEWS® View: Perhaps not a huge story, yet one that seems to put a stake in the ground about the continued direction of the fitness industry -- families are out, corporate ownership is in; small is out, larger is in; single products are out, multi-product lines are in. One certainly can't fault the Hurt family. They built a solid business and did what any entrepreneur would do when retirement beckons -- sell to someone or an entity that seemingly will continue the legacy and intent. Sad, but perhaps only bringing the fitness industry and its companies in line with the direction of the rest of the American marketplace.


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