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With Michael Gerend's departure as Life Time Fitness's chief operating officer effective this Friday, there seems to be a growing trend within this industry that more and more companies are doing away with the COO role.

In January, Gold's Gym announced that it was eliminating the COO position held by Mike Feinman, who had been with the company for only one year after coming over from 24 Hour Fitness.

Speaking of 24 Hour, the company does not have a COO. 24 Hour's last COO, Michael Sheehan, left to become the CEO of Bally Total Fitness.

Speaking of Bally, that company does not have a COO, either. Bally's last COO was Michael Feder, who left after Sheehan was hired last June, according to a Bally spokesperson.

Gerend had been with Life Time since 2003 and was named COO in December 2007. A colleague of mine smartly noted that our story about his departure coincided with the related article about Life Time's earnings falling in first quarter 2009.

Gerend's announcement came late in the day last Friday, so I don't know if Life Time was hoping no one would notice. The SEC filing by Life Time stated that the decision of Gerend's departure was made on April 20, three days before the company announced its first quarter results and held its annual shareholders' meeting. The filing used the term "terminate" or "terminated" three times, which leads me to believe this move might not have been mutual, despite what was stated in the press release. (In which, Life Time CEO Bahram Akradi said the company's executive team will assume the duties Gerend held.)

Why do you think so many companies no longer have a COO? Let us know by leaving a comment after this post.

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