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is a chain of health clubs in South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...
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Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...
and the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...
. The company launched in 1998 in Preston, Lancashire as part of Richard Branson
Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson is an English business magnate, best known for his Virgin Group of more than 400 companies....
's Virgin Group
Virgin Group Limited is a British branded venture capital conglomerate organisation founded by business tycoon Richard Branson. The core business areas are travel, entertainment and lifestyle. Virgin Group's date of incorporation is listed as 1989 by Companies House, who class it as a holding...
In South Africa the company bought the assets of the 'Health and Racquet Club' chain after the latter's parent company, Leisurenet, had been placed in liquidation in October 2000 for 319.6 million South African Rand
The rand is the currency of South Africa. It takes its name from the Witwatersrand , the ridge upon which Johannesburg is built and where most of South Africa's gold deposits were found. The rand has the symbol "R" and is subdivided into 100 cents, symbol "c"...
(approximately £24.5m as at November 2011). In 2002, by which point the company had 350,000 members, Branson sold 55 percent of the company to Bridgepoint Capital
Bridgepoint is a UK-based private equity investor in companies valued up to €1 billion, including Pets at Home and Pret A Manger in the UK, Dorna in Spain, and Alain Afflelou in France.-History:...
for £40 million.
It subsequently expanded its operations in 2004 to Italy. By 2005 the company had 25 clubs in the UK, 77 clubs in South Africa and 12 clubs in Continental Europe. It opened its first Australian club in Sydney in late 2008.
In 2005, Branson bought out Bridgepoint's stake in the business for £134.5 million.
On November 1, 2006 it took over the UK-based operation of the more prestigious Holmes Place chain, thus increasing its UK chain of clubs from 24 to 72 overnight.
On April 26, 2011 it announced the takeover of UK gym operator Esporta's 55 clubs increasing the UK business to 124 clubs.