Several club CEOs milled about in and around the IHRSA show last week, and whether it was for a minute or an hour, I was fortunate enough to talk to a few of them.
All of the execs I ran into were positive, enthusiastic and really looking forward to the rest of this year and the future of the industry. Not one CEO came up to me and said, "Gee, Stu, I don't know how we can survive! It doesn't get any bleaker than this!" Nope, didn't hear that.
In one of the more formal settings during the show, I caught up with Jim Snow, president of Gold's Gym. Fittingly, since we were right in the middle of March Madness, Snow shares a Big 12 Conference tie with me. He went to Kansas State, I went to Missouri. He also has family in the Kansas City area, my home base. We met at the Omni Hotel, which is owned and operated by Gold's parent company, TRT Holdings. I'll bet Snow gets at least a 10 percent discount. At least.
Of the recent CEOs/presidents that Gold's has had (and there have been a few in just a few short years), I think Snow is the most enthusiastic about Gold's. He was more than willing to show me renderings of the new Gold's Gyms in Oklahoma City on his iPad and talk about the new Gold's Gym Express model, which we had written about the day before. He also told me his son wants him to change his name to "Gym Snow." Pretty clever.
Now here's an attempt to be clever on my part: I had lunch by myself at Carl Jr.'s one day and lunch with Carl III the next. 24 Hour Fitness CEO Carl Liebert III, along with 24 Hour Chief Marketing Officer Tony Wells, were kind enough to dine with me at Roy's Restaurant, a great Hawaiian place downtown. Liebert spoke on a panel at our show a couple of years ago, but we hadn't met until last week.
We touched on a lot of subjects, from lifetime memberships to commission sales to the things you can buy at Costco, such as a 24 Hour membership or a brand new car. We also talked about the priest who blessed 24 Hour's new club in Hawaii a couple of years ago. I think that priest is in negotiations to bless all new 24 Hour clubs on the mainland, too.
I whiffed on the most important question I should have asked Carl and Tony: What was it like to play with David Robinson? They were both teammates of his at the U.S. Naval Academy. All three were honored this past January on the 25th anniversary of their 1986 basketball team that made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. Check out Carl and Tony in this video. Thanks to alphabetical order, poor Tony had to be introduced right after David Robinson. I think Carl, Tony and me, plus a couple of stiffs off the street, could make a run in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Definitely if David Robinson plays with us, too, or even Carl's son, Jacob, who was a freshman on the Navy basketball team this season.
I have to share with you a funny story from that lunch. When the waiter came by to collect the bill, he noticed the 24 Hour logo on Tony's shirt.
"The founder lives in Lafayette," the waiter told Tony, referring to Mark Mastrov, Carl's predecessor, who co-owns New Evolution Ventures in the San Francisco suburb. Sometimes, there's no escaping the past. The good thing is, Mark played some ball back in his day, plus he's tight with Steve Nash. Add them to the mix, and we could really have a team.