Stephen Kindler Jr.

"It was our way of showing conviction" in the Planet Fitness brand, said Stephen Kindler Jr., CEO and president of National Fitness Partners.

Stephen Kindler Jr. doesn't want to call his firm's acquisition of 16 Planet Fitness gyms in Ohio and Pennsylvania, in the middle of the pandemic, a gamble. "But definitely it took some long, hard discussions about how we wanted to continue growing our business," said Kindler, the 35-year-old president and CEO of National Fitness Partners.

"I'm very familiar with the sellers we worked with; the timing was right. We came up with a fair and equitable transaction for both parties. It was our way of showing conviction" in the "long-term success of our brand." He said he's bullish on the "near-term recovery prospects and long-term growth" of Planet Fitness.

Funds managed by the Credit Group of Ares Management Corp. provided financing for the transactions, with two different sellers.

National Fitness Partners was founded in 2016 to acquire 10 Planet Fitness clubs from the Kindler family in partnership with Argonne Capital Group. Backing from the private equity firm helped to add sophistication and "professionalize" the business, Kindler said. "One thing they've done is help scale family owned franchise businesses, that's their bread and butter."

The Kindler family became Planet Fitness franchisees in 2005, when they converted two gyms in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

This acquisition, the seventh for National Fitness Partners, brings their gym count to 94; Kindler expects to cross the 100-gym mark this year. 

"I'll be honest, we've taken this thing a lot farther than we anticipated we could get to. We found a good way to grow our business in the right manner. We've had some great success in growing our footprint in kind of some off-the-grid markets, if you will, that have not been in the limelight," he said. 

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