(For the most recent list, go to the Club Industry's Top 100 Health Clubs of 2020 article and list by going here.)
Editors’ Note: The companies on the Top 100 Clubs list are ranked by 2018 gross revenue, not by any other standard. Club Industry allows franchisors to report revenue from corporate-owned facilities and franchisee fees but not revenue from individual franchisees, as each franchisee can report its revenue separately to be considered for the list.
Today's highest revenue-generating health club companies typically serve as the bellwethers for the larger fitness industry, particularly when identifying growth or lapses in business. In 2018, the health club sector continued to boom right alongside the American economy, whose gross domestic product grew by 2.9 percent, which is tied for the largest single-year increase since 2005, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
This year's Club Industry Top 100 Clubs list shows that most major health club companies again experienced revenue growth. In fact, of the companies who self-reported their numbers, only seven reported a revenue decline in 2018, and 21 reported revenue increases of 10 percent or greater. In many cases, growth was fueled by acquisitions, new openings and increased franchisee fees via accelerated franchising strategies—a trend that, in many ways, continues to shape the industry at large. Franchised clubs made up nine of the 21 self-reported clubs with increases of 10 percent or greater.
The largest franchisor on the list, Planet Fitness, continues to be defined by rapid growth. The Hampton, New Hampshire-based high-volume, low-price (HVLP) business grew by 33 percent in 2018—more than double its 2017 growth percentage. This is the result of its success with public trading, developing new franchisees, growing corporate-owned clubs, equipment sales and attracting the interest of private equity groups, an industry consultant told Club Industry. Still, Planet Fitness, which reported $572.9 million in 2018 to come in at No. 6 on the list, is far from encroaching on the list's longtime top-five, billion-dollar brands.
Privately owned franchisor Orangetheory Fitness, Boca Raton, Florida, has benefitted from business strategies similar to Planet Fitness and, this year, jumped to its highest-ever position on the annual list (No. 13) with 31 percent increase in revenue.
Notably, Gold’s Gym International, Dallas, which submitted its revenue for the list for the first time in many years, was one of the few franchisors reporting a decline in 2018 revenue (5 percent), but it still made the top 10 with $302 million in revenue from corporate-owned clubs and franchisee fees.
One franchisor that typically is on the list was removed this year. For the second year in a row, Lift Brands, which owns Snap Fitness, did not submit its revenue and Club Industry was unable to secure financials from other sources, so Lift Brands was removed.
Although many familiar top-10 companies reclaimed their coveted spots on this year's list, a number of upper- and middle-ranked brands reported strong double-digit growth, including Chuze Fitness, San Diego (24 percent); 9Round, Simpsonville, South Carolina (41 percent); and City Fitness, Philadelphia (34 percent).
Beacon Health & Fitness, Granger, Indiana, reported the largest year-over-year increase on this year's list at 153 percent (No. 71). This growth is the result of the maturation of Beacon's clinical services including physical therapy and sports medicine, Executive Director Alan Loyd told Club Industry. Beacon also did not fully report all revenue areas within its facility for its submission to last year's list.
Top 100 newcomer The Camp Transformation Center, Chino Hills, California, reported the largest year-over-year decrease on this year's list at 32 percent (No. 80). However, this was not due to financial struggle, but rather that the company sold 10 of its locations to franchisees during the fiscal year, The Camp told Club Industry.
As in past years, each company self-reported its revenue to Club Industry except where noted. Club companies at the top of the list are often most private about their revenue, so to acquire financial statistics for these companies, Club Industry sought various financial sources in the industry, noting in the list and in the text below which companies were ranked based on industry sources. For other companies who did not report this year but reported last year, Club Industry estimated 2018 revenue using the percentage increase that those companies expected for 2018 when they reported their 2017 revenue for last year’s list. When estimates are used, we noted so in the text below and on the list itself.
The list ranks each company by its 2018 revenue. As such, it is not meant as a ranking of clubs by quality, customer service or any other non-financial factor.
Following are some of the highlights of the Top 12 companies on this year’s list.
No. 1: LA Fitness
LA Fitness, Irvine, California, claimed the top spot on the Top 100 Clubs list for the sixth consecutive year. Reliable industry sources reported that the company's 2018 revenue was $2.09 billion. No true comparison can occur between the company’s financial performance in 2017 and 2018 because the $2.1 billion in revenue noted for the company in 2017 (also secured through industry sources rather than the company itself) was for the last 12 months ending on Sept. 30, 2017, while the 2018 revenue is for the last 12 months ending on Dec. 31, 2018.
During 2018, press-shy LA Fitness shared news about a few projects. In November 2018, LA Fitness announced a $13.6 million renovation project to revamp 26 of its 43 Arizona clubs. In 2018, the company also further developed its emerging club-within-a-club concept, HIIT by LAF. Its website notes that it has more than 600 clubs.
No. 2: Life Time
Life Time, Chanhassen, Minnesota, held its No. 2 spot for the third straight year, with 2018 revenue growth of 12.9 percent to $1.75 billion.
Life Time was in the news as much as any American health club company in 2018, but many of its headlines were not strictly about traditional health club facilities. The company's current trajectory is being mapped by founder and CEO Bahram Akradi, whose vision of tight-knit communities where life, work, health and wellness all fluidly converge is beginning to take shape.
In April 2018, Life Time debuted its Life Time Work shared workspace concept at its new Life Time Athletic club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. The 80,000-square-foot health club includes 12,000 square feet of ergonomic workspaces with conference rooms, private and open-plan areas, and an outdoor terrace. The concept has since expanded to other locations, including Minneapolis and Houston with plans to open more.
In September 2018, the company opened Life Time Sport, a soccer-centric sports concept southwest of Minneapolis. Life Time Sport is housed inside the former Minnesota Vikings practice facility at Winter Park in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and offers an alternative to organized team sports for children and fitness options for adults.
Looking forward, Life Time is developing residential community properties that will likely affect the company's revenue in 2020.
No. 3: 24 Hour Fitness
24 Hour Fitness, San Ramon, California, held its No. 3 spot on the list with $1.51 billion in 2018 revenue, representing an increase of 4.8 percent.
In 2018, 24 Hour opened new clubs in South Florida; Southern California; Northern California; Kent, Washington; and McKinney, Texas.
In April 2018, the company partnered with the University of Pennsylvania’s Behavior Change for Good Initiative (BCFG) to launch a 28-day science-based interactive digital program called the StepUp Program. StepUp was aimed at exploring the motivations of gym-goers with the goal of creating lasting habits.
In June 2018, 24 Hour partnered with Les Mills to host a BodyCombat workout on the USS Midway in San Diego. The workout, which hosted 800 people, was held in part to raise awareness about 24 Hour’s Boots24 program, which provides employment opportunities for active duty military members, veterans, military spouses and family.
A change that may affect 2019 revenue involves 24 Hour's recent CEO shake-up. In January 2019, Chris Roussos stepped down as CEO and was replaced by Tony Ueber, the former president and CEO of Tennessee-based Results Physiotherapy. Several changes were then made with the C-level management executives. Ueber shared his plans for the company in this article and podcast episode.
No. 4: Equinox Holdings
Equinox Holdings, New York, again ranked No. 4 on this year’s list with an estimated $1.43 billion in 2018 revenue. The company has never self -reported its revenue. Instead, its revenue has been gained through other sources. However, for 2018 revenue, Club Industry was unable to secure revenue from those outside sources, so we estimated a 10 percent increase for the year. In addition, the 2017 revenue noted in last year’s list was for the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2017, instead of Dec. 31, 2017.
The company’s revenue represents the collective businesses of Equinox, Blink Fitness, SoulCycle and Pure Yoga.
Equinox spent much of 2018 developing its hotel concepts, the first of which opened at New York’s Hudson Yards in July 2019 and includes the largest Equinox club within a hotel. Niki Leondakis, who joined Equinox in April 2017 as CEO, was expected to help the company establish a foothold in the hospitality world using her past experience as CEO of hotels and resorts for Colorado-based Two Roads Hospitality. However, she left Equinox in July 2018, and Judy Turchin was hired in that role.
That wasn’t the only news related to the Equinox Hotels. In spring 2018, Equinox settled a trademark lawsuit with a similarly named San Francisco-based hospitality company that had claimed the health club company's venture into the hotel business threatened its brand.
Hotels weren’t the only new business Equinox pursued in 2018. In December 2018, Equinox opened its first E by Equinox stand-alone club in the United States, called E Madison Avenue (located on East 85th Street in New York City). Harvey Spevak, Equinox’s executive chairman and managing partner, has called E by Equinox the brand’s most comprehensive and luxurious club offering to date. The new location spans a 14,000-square-foot townhouse space and features physical therapy, nutrition counseling and Equinox's signature Tier X lifestyle coaching, as well as a private Pilates studio, posh locker rooms and a full spa.
In July 2018, Equinox and SoulCycle began developing a talent management practice to represent top fitness trainers and personalities across both brands. The project is being advised by Beverly Hills-based talent agency William Morris Endeavor (WME).
Two of the other brands under Equinox Holdings also had significant news in 2018. SoulCycle, which filed plans for an initial public offering (IPO) in 2015, withdrew its IPO in May 2018, citing market conditions. Blink Fitness opened clubs in six new markets in 2018, in addition to striking a development partnership with NBA star Draymond Green and opening its first franchisee-owned club.
No. 5: ClubCorp
ClubCorp, Dallas, rounds out the billion-dollar portion of the list at No. 5 with $1.11 billion in 2018 revenue, a 6.6 percent decrease from 2017. As of Dec. 31, 2018, ClubCorp claimed 208 facilities in operation across 27 states. This includes 193 facilities that the company owned and an additional 15 facilities that the company managed.
ClubCorp has maintained a lower media profile since privatizing its business in 2017. However, in 2018, the company did launch ClubLife Management, a new division that offers third-party management services to private resorts, health clubs and golf courses.
In August 2018, ClubCorp also acquired Brookstone Golf & Country Club, Acworth, Georgia, for an undisclosed sum. As part of the deal, ClubCorp financed a major renovation project at Brookstone that updated the club's golf, dining and aquatics and fitness spaces.
No. 6: Planet Fitness
The wildfire-like success of its high-volume, low-price (HVLP) business model is helping Planet Fitness to steadily gain ground on the Top 100 Clubs list’s billion-dollar companies. This year, Planet Fitness again ranked at No. 6, reporting $572.9 million in 2018 revenue, a 33 percent increase from 2017. (The revenue reported by all franchisors on this list is for corporate-owned locations and franchisee fees but not for the revenue earned by each individual franchisee.)
Planet Fitness added 230 new locations in 2018, bringing its global club count to 1,742 as of Dec. 31, 2018.
In 2018, Planet Fitness refinanced existing senior secured credit facilities, valued at more than $707 million with a new securitized financing facility of $1.225 billion.
Publicly traded companies commonly secure increased debt, an industry consultant told Club Industry. Doing so allows the company to repurchase stock, grow its business, pay dividends to shareholders and pay off more expensive existing debt. In short, it's a good sign for a growing public company that continues to impress Wall Street, according to the consultant.
Although Planet Fitness' many franchisee groups have limited impact on the company's Top 100 ranking, their performance is still worth noting and indicative of the state of the company and its global network.
In August 2018, private equity firm Trilantic North America, New York, acquired a majority stake in Planet Fitness franchisee group Taymax Group Holdings, Salem, New Hampshire. At the time of the deal (terms of which were not disclosed), Taymax operated 52 clubs across multiple markets and had been recognized as Planet Fitness’ Franchisee of the Year in 2018. (Taymax currently operates 65 clubs, having recently expanded in Alabama.)
A number of other franchisee groups expanded and consolidated in 2018, including PLNTF Holdings, Indianapolis, and United PF Partners, Austin, Texas. Eleven of these franchisee groups are backed by private equity firms.
Planet Fitness’ 2018 performance earned the company a place on Entrepreneur's 2019 Franchise 500 Ranking list.
The company’s upward trajectory is not showing signs of slowing, either. Planet Fitness opened a record 65 new clubs in the first quarter of 2019 and expects to open 250 new clubs by the end of the year, CEO Chris Rondeau said in a media release.
No. 7: Town Sports International
Top 100 Clubs list mainstay Town Sports International (TSI), Jupiter, Florida, dominated headlines in 2017 as the result of CEO Patrick Walsh's all-in strategy to improve the company through acquisitions and various cost-cutting initiatives that started in 2016 when he moved the company’s headquarters from New York City to Jupiter, Florida, and laid off 50 corporate and regional staff to save $1.7 million at a time when rumors were circulating about a possible bankruptcy. Walsh also rerouted the company from its low-priced path back to its former mid-priced model. In 2017, TSI acquired Lucille Roberts, New York.
Acquisitions continued in 2018, a year in which TSI acquired 24 clubs for $35.3 million. The acquisitions included the 11 Total Woman Gym + Spa locations in California and David Barton’s two TMPL clubs in New York. It also included three previously branded Gold's Gym clubs in South Florida that TSI is renovating and rebranding as Palm Beach Sports Clubs—a continuation of its signature New York Sports Clubs brand that later grew to include Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, DC.
TSI also acquired two luxury LIV Fitness clubs in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and in late 2018, it purchased four Massachusetts-based Latitude Sports Clubs that were rebranded as Boston Sports Clubs in April of this year.
Walsh spoke at length with Club Industry in May 2018 about his vision for the company sharing that he envisioned TSI becoming a diversified holding company that would consider club acquisitions in any market, domestic or abroad.
"If [other club brands are] under the Town Sports umbrella, we can utilize our leverage, provide capital for growth, operational expertise, marketing expertise ... all these things we think are very attractive to a small business owner like David Barton or Lucille Roberts or Total Woman," Walsh said. "Once they're under our umbrella, they have a much better chance of growing the business in the years ahead given the environment. And that's the real value we've created with Town Sports."
Ultimately, the company reported 2018 revenue growth of 7.6 percent to $443 million.
However, beyond revenue, TSI’s operating expenses increased by 9.4 percent to $197.68 million, and its adjusted EBITDA decreased by 4.8 percent to $54.24 million. TSI's stock price has since declined from a high mark of $14.75 in 2018 to $1.41 per share as of Aug. 6, 2019.
Walsh addressed concerns about the company's stock performance in an April 2019 letter to shareholders. Moving forward, he said TSI must establish annual same-store revenue growth of at least 2 percent in order to maintain its operating margins.
“Town’s stock has been volatile over the past year, and it is important to remember that good companies are not always good stocks and good stocks are not always good companies,” Walsh said in his letter. “Price and timing matter when purchasing securities. ... The company continues to face challenges from labor costs due to mandated minimum wage and salary increases in our core markets. These cost pressures are expected to continue through 2021 at a minimum. It is important that our shareholders and investors understand the cost pressures [TSI] faces in the years ahead.”
No. 8: Gold’s Gym International
Gold’s Gym International self-submitted its financial numbers for this annual list for the first time in many years, reporting $302 million in 2018 revenue, a 5 percent decrease from 2017, according to the company.
Part of the reason for the decline may have been that for the second half of the year, the company was being shopped around, which can often slow growth for a company, according to industry insiders. In July 2018, majority shareholder TRT Holdings announced it was seeking a buyer for the brand and was interested in moving out of the health club business. However, the sale was called off in February 2019 when TRT appointed former Gold's Gym CIO Adam Zeitsiff as CEO and tasked him with growing the brand. (You can learn more about the called-off sale and Zeitsiff's return to the company in this article and this podcast episode.)
In February 2018, Gold's Gym was named the best fitness franchise by Global Franchise Magazine.
At its annual Las Vegas Convention in August 2018, Gold's Gym awarded the Garcia family of its South Texas territory as its domestic franchisee of the year.
During the third quarter of 2018, Gold’s Gym reported the largest quarter for franchise development in company history.
Gold's Gym claimed 691 clubs as of Dec. 31, 2018, 144 of which were corporate and 547 of which were franchised. The company is planning to build one new club in 2019, open 30 franchised locations and enter the studio segment with group training concept Gold’s Studio.
No. 9: The Bay Club Company
The Bay Club Company, San Francisco, dropped to the ninth spot on this year's list due to the inclusion of Gold’s Gym International but reported a strong 25 percent increase in its 2018 revenue to $294.65 million.
2018 was a significant year for The Bay Club Co., as it was acquired mid-summer by private equity firm KKR for an undisclosed sum. KKR's capital is expected to provide The Bay Club Co. support to expand into new markets, according to a media release.
With KKR's backing, The Bay Club Co. soon acquired five ClubSport facilities from Leisure Sports Inc., Pleasanton, California, in November 2018. This included four clubs in the East Bay of San Francisco and one facility in Portland, Oregon, marking The Bay Club Co.'s first foray into Oregon. (Leisure Sports previously ranked No. 16 on last year's Top 100 Clubs list with $108.92 million in 2017 revenue. Due to the sale of all but one of its ClubSports locations and the fact that Leisure Sports did not submit a form this year, Club Industry dropped the company from the list this year.)
The Bay Club Co. currently owns 27 facilities and is planning to acquire eight additional locations in 2019, according to its Top 100 submission form. These acquisitions are expected to grow the company's revenue by at least 20 percent in 2019, according to the Bay Club Co.
No. 10: XSport Fitness (Capital Fitness)
XSport Fitness, Big Rock, Illinois, makes it in the top 10 with estimated revenue of $204.8 million. XSport typically reports its revenue but did not do so this year. However, on its Top 100 form last year, XSport had estimated that its 2018 revenue would increase by 5 percent, so Club Industry estimated a 5 percent revenue increase for the company in 2018.
In March 2018, a former manager filed a lawsuit against XSport seeking back pay, statutory damages and attorney fees for himself and the class he claims to represent after alleging the company failed to pay overtime, commission and state-regulated minimum wages to its employees. The lawsuit was settled out of court in February 2019.
No. 11: EXOS
EXOS, Phoenix, narrowly surpassed Crunch to claim the 11th spot on this year's list. EXOS’ submitted financial data tells a story of consistent growth. In 2018, the company's revenue grew by 13.3 percent to $182.59 million. As of Dec. 31, 2018, EXOS, which is known for its elite athletic training facility and its management division of in-house corporate facilities, claimed 552 facilities in operation, 56 of which it owned and the rest of which it manages.
The company anticipates increasing its revenue by at least another 5 percent in 2019. This is partially based on its strategy to further integrate technology and digital products into its offerings, according to the company’s Top 100 submission form. Additionally, EXOS plans to acquire 10 new facilities and complete one new build-out during 2019.
No. 12: Crunch
Crunch, New York, secured the No. 12 spot on this year’s list, reporting a 4 percent increase in 2018 revenue to $180 million. The company ended the year with 298 facilities, 54 of which were corporate owned and 244 of which were franchised locations. In total, Crunch added 67 new franchised clubs in 2018.
Crunch started 2018 by naming former Town Sports International executive Dan Gallagher as its new chief financial officer.
In August, Crunch Fitness West Florida and Atlanta (CR Fitness) placed No. 2,251 on Inc.'s 5000 list. At that time, the franchisee group had recently grown its annual revenue by 195 percent to $22 million.
In July 2019, Crunch's management partnered with TPG Growth to acquire the company from Angelo, Gordon & Co. LP. The deal included Crunch’s franchising business and all corporate-owned facilities. The transaction terms were not disclosed, but Crunch CEO Jim Rowley told Club Industry that he and his colleagues were “very pleased with the outcome.” With this new backing, Crunch expects to grow its revenue by another 6 percent in 2019, citing two new corporate facility build-outs and 80 new franchised club openings.
Top 100-Caliber Companies Not on the List
Every year, several companies who deserve to be on the list decline to provide their information, and we are unable to secure accurate estimates from other sources, so they are left off the list. The following companies likely should be on the list but are not for this reason:
- The Alaska Clubs, Anchorage, Alaska
- American Family Fitness, Glen Allen, Virginia
- Baylor Tom Landry Health & Wellness Center, Dallas
- Brick Bodies, Timonium, Maryland
- California Family Fitness, Orangevale, California
- Cedardale Inc., Haverhill, Massachusetts
- Chicago Athletic Clubs, Chicago
- Curves International, Waco, Texas
- The Edge Fitness Clubs, Orange, Connecticut
- Exhale Spa, New York
- Fitness 19, Maple Valley, Washington
- Fitness USA, West Bloomfield, Michigan
- Franklin Athletic Club, Southfield, Michigan
- Genesis Health Clubs, Wichita, Kansas
- Gold's Gym LA, Los Angeles
- Healthplex Sports Club, Springfield, Pennsylvania
- In-Shape Health Clubs, Stockton, California
- Iowa Sports Clubs, New York City
- Jersey Strong, Wall, New Jersey
- Las Vegas Athletic Clubs, Las Vegas
- Lift Brands, Chanhassen, Minnesota
- Lowell Management (Gold's Gym Virginia and Wisconsin), Aspen, Colorado
- New York Health and Racquet Club, New York
- O2Fitness, Raleigh, North Carolina
- PRO Sports Club, Bellevue, Washington
- Retro Fitness, Colts Neck, New Jersey
- Saco Sport & Fitness, Saco, Maine
- Spearman Clubs Inc., Laguna Niguel, California
- Titan Fitness Holdings (Fitness Connection), McLean, Virginia
- Wisconsin Athletic Clubs, West Allis, Wisconsin
- World Gym International, Los Angeles
- YouFit, St. Petersburg, Florida
Acknowledgement and Thank You
Club Industry thanks Rick Caro, president of Management Vision, for his help with the 2019 Top 100 Clubs list and the analysis this year.
Thank you also to Emily Burgoon, contributor, for her work contacting companies and compiling the information for this year’s list.
And thank you to all the club company CEOs and CFOs who submitted their forms this year.
Next Year’s List