I spoke with Manny Butera this afternoon about his clubs and his December Chapter 11 filing. According to him, several financial backers backed out on him for various reasons, which left him high and dry with few options. The option that his lawyers recommended and he finally accepted was the Chapter 11 filing. He indicated that the industry seems to be reacting as if he's the only club that's ever filed for Chapter 11.
Butera had owned about 19 Total Fitness System clubs and had managed about 50 clubs. He was the largest World Gym franchisee. However, he is no longer with World Gym, and he made it clear that his World Gym license was not stripped from him. Instead, he met with Mike Grondahl, CEO of Planet Fitness, around the time that Planet Fitness purchased World Gym (October 2006) and it was a mutual decision that Butera's gyms no longer be World Gym facilities, he said.
Now, Butera has renamed the remaining eight Total Fitness System clubs (he closed clubs in Georgia, Alabama and Colorado) as Fuel Fitness Clubs. He is focusing mostly on the clubs he owns and not on the managed clubs, whose numbers have dwindled since the bankruptcy filing.
We'll have a full story on this in our March issue. -Pam