IRVING, TX -- Two Gold’s Gym franchisees in the San Francisco Bay Area say they are leaving the brand after the CEO of Gold’s parent company, TRT Holdings, made a donation to a political group led by former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove.
Sebastyen and Zsolt Jackovics, who own four Gold’s Gyms—two in San Francisco and one each in Oakland, CA, and Marin, CA—said in a letter to Gold’s members on Monday that they plan to leave the brand in response to a $2 million donation that TRT Holdings’ CEO Robert Rowling made to Rove’s American Crossroads, which has been accused by gay rights organizations of supporting candidates in next week’s midterm elections who hold anti-gay positions.
According to a letter written on behalf of the Jackovics by Don Dickerson, the director of operations for Gold’s Gym Bay Area, a large percentage of Gold’s members are from the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.
“It is very unfortunate that the CEO of TRT holdings has chosen this course of action,” Dickerson wrote. “We do not support it in any way.”
The Jackovics intend to end their association with Gold’s on or before their contract with Gold’s Gym International (GGI), Irving, TX, ends on Sept. 15, 2012. Also, for every dollar that Gold’s Gym Bay Area pays in franchise fees, it will donate an equal or greater amount to LGBT charities.
In a response to the letter, which was posted on the Gold’s Gym Bay Area Facebook page, GGI said it did not make a donation to American Crossroads, nor does it support anti-gay causes.
“Quite the contrary, the Gold’s Gym family has been strong supporters of the LGBT community over the years,” GGI said in a statement. “This includes supporting pride events, sponsoring LGBT media outlets and donating to various LGBT charities in the communities we serve. Gold’s Gym is a non-political organization, and our members’ dues are not used to fund political candidates. Bob Rowling, the CEO of our ownership group, TRT Holdings, made a private donation completely independent from (and not on behalf of) Gold’s Gym.”
GGI added that most Gold’s Gyms are independently owned and operated by franchisees who “embrace and accept members from all walks of life.”
Addressing the Jackovics specifically, GGI says that discussions surrounding the termination of their franchise agreement with GGI began months ago for unrelated matters.
“We were disappointed to read Sebastyen and Zsolt Jackovics’ comments indicating that their decision to leave the Gold’s Gym family is a direct result of Robert Rowling’s donation to American Crossroads,” GGI said in a statement. “The Jackovics informed us of their intent to sell two of their Gold’s Gyms in March of this year and completed the sale in June as part of their planned exit strategy. While there is no doubt that Gold’s Gym San Francisco has been a pillar of the LGBT community, to say that they left the Gold’s Gym brand because of the American Crossroads donation would be disingenuous.”
In an interview aired on Fox News, Rowling said that his donation to American Crossroads was not related to a stance on gay issues.
“I’ve never heard one discussion of a social issue,” Rowling told Fox News. “This is all about fiscal sanity. [American Crossroads] supports conservative candidates, and even though those candidates may disagree with them on social issues, the resounding issue is fiscal responsibility.”
In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Dickerson said of Rowling: “He has a right to donate to anyone he wants to. But American Crossroads is associated with Karl Rove, who is not exactly a friend of the LGBT community.”
DallasVoice.com, a media source for the LGBT community in Texas, asked Dave Reiseman, vice president of communications for GGI, if Rowling could take the profits generated by Gold’s Gym and then give that money to organizations such as American Crossroads.
“I think one day if the company is ever sold, he may make a profit there,” Reiseman told the website’s blog, Instant Tea, “but right now they just reinvest all the profits back into the business.”