Bally Losing Crunch to Get Financially Fit

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CHICAGO — There's more news on the Bally front: moving closer to its goal of reducing debt and meeting its July 31 deadline to release restated financials for the past four years, Bally Total Fitness Corp. is shopping for a buyer for Crunch Fitness. The company purchased Crunch for $90 million in December 2001.

Crunch has a total of 21 clubs in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco.

Recently, Bally hired the Blackstone Group L.P. to help the company get out of its financial situation, which includes $741 million in outstanding debt and investigations into accounting issues by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney General's office.

The Crunch announcement came after 24 Hour Fitness was sold for $1.6 billion to Forstmann, Little & Co. Buyout firms, such as the Blackstone Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Hellman & Friedman LLC, were reportedly also bidding on 24 Hour Fitness, which may mean they are open to a bid for Crunch, some analysts say.

In April, Bally announced that it expects to report a loss for 2004. It had a 22 percent increase in the number of members joining in 2004, but had only a one percent net increase in members.

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