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Bally Plucks New CEO From 24 Hour

CHICAGO -- A loss for 24 Hour Fitness is Bally Total Fitness’ gain. Bally announced today it has appointed Michael Sheehan as its new chief executive officer, effective July 1. Sheehan had been the chief operating officer at 24 Hour since 2005 and was with that company the last seven years, also serving as an executive vice president.

Bally has not had a CEO since Barry Elson stepped down as acting CEO on May 31, 2007. Elson had taken over for Paul Toback, who was ousted as Bally’s chairman and CEO in August 2006.

Don Kornstein had been serving as Bally’s interim chairman since Toback’s departure and was named chief restructuring officer after Elson’s resignation. Kornstein left his post last November and is now serving as Bally’s non-executive chairman of the board, a spokesperson said.

Bally filed for Chapter 11 protection in July of last year but emerged from bankruptcy just two months later. After time on the New York Stock Exchange and later on the Pink Sheets exchange, Bally became a private company.

Before Bally filed for bankruptcy, Michael Feder, a managing director at financial advisory firm AlixPartners, joined the company as its new chief operating officer. Feder replaced John Wildman, who became Bally’s interim chief marketing officer and senior vice president for sales.

Feder is pleased with Sheehan’s hiring.

“Our board of directors was committed to hiring a CEO who was the best possible fit for the role, and they have certainly achieved that goal,” Feder said in a statement. “We believe that Mike has the ideal blend of experience, leadership skills, creativity and commitment to health and fitness. I am confident that under Mike’s leadership, Bally will thrive.”

Sheehan, who also will serve on Bally’s board of directors, had previously played operational, finance and sales roles with multi-unit consumer retailers, including management roles with Pepsico, Nestle and Yum Brands, a food service holding company with well-known brands including Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut.

“I am looking forward to joining the Bally team and I am eager to add value to this established brand,” Sheehan said in a statement. “For many years, Bally has been a leader in the fitness industry—Bally’s facilities, fitness programming and personnel are among the best in the business. Under my leadership, Bally will continue to focus on providing high-quality comprehensive fitness experiences to our members.”

In an interview with Club Industry’s Fitness Business Pro in March, 24 Hour CEO Carl Liebert said that he relied heavily on Sheehan’s expertise as he increased his knowledge about the fitness industry. Liebert came to 24 Hour after serving as executive vice president of The Home Depot.

After learning of Sheehan’s departure, a 24 Hour company spokesperson said: “While we are disappointed by Mike’s decision, 24 Hour Fitness will continue to execute our plans for growth and maintain our position as the recognized leader within the industry.”

Sheehan’s departure is the latest personnel move for 24 Hour this year. In January, 24 Hour founder Mark Mastrov resigned as chairman of the board. Soon after, four other executives left the company: Tony Bakos, vice president and general counsel; Mike Feinman, vice president; Don Harbich, vice president; and Adam Loew, vice president of new club development. Feinman resigned to become the chief operating officer for Gold’s Gym International.

“I have known, worked for and partnered with Mike for over 10 years in both the quick-service restaurant and fitness industries,” Feinman said in an e-mail. “He is a hard driving, bright executive. I wish him the very best of luck in his new endeavor.”

Two other 24 Hour executives, Jim Rowley and Steve Clinefelter, either resigned or retired in the spring. Chief Financial Officer Colin Heggie replaced Clinefelter as president of California Fitness in Asia. Dan Benning, who had served as 24 Hour’s senior vice president of club operations, replaced Rowley as north division president. Jeffrey Boyer was appointed the new chief financial officer, and Tony Wells was promoted from senior vice president of marketing to chief marketing officer.

In today’s statement, Bally said it has 352 facilities operating under the Bally Total Fitness and Bally Sports Clubs brands. When the company filed for bankruptcy last year, it had more than 375 facilities in 26 states plus Mexico, Korea, China and the Caribbean. Two years ago, Bally boasted at least 400 clubs in operation.

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