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Q&A


Olav Thorstad (right) joined SATS after


spending many years as a member of SATS clubs


SATS’ CEO is capitalising on the chain’s past achievements, its new budget brand, and ambitious product development initiatives. Patricia Amend reports


OLAV THORSTAD


EUROPE EUROPE


FOCUS WHAT LED YOU TO JOIN SATS?


I’d been a member of SATS for many years, so it was a product I knew very well. I joined the company three and a half years ago as the country manager for our Norwegian operation. Then, in June of 2009, I became CEO. My professional background in retail, as well as my interest in sports and an active lifestyle, served me well in tackling this unique opportunity.


WHAT HAS BEEN THE HISTORY OF SATS TO DATE?


In 1995, three club businessmen – Vegard Liven, Aksel Gresvig and Bjørn-Sigurd Johansen – formed SATS, which stands for ‘Sport Aerobic Training Centre’ in Norwegian. They began with just one gym in downtown Oslo. By 1998, they had 49 clubs in Norway, including several franchised units operating under the name Spenst. At the end of 1998, SATS was sold to McCown De Leeuw


& Co, the American private equity fi rm, via its European subsidiary Euro Fitness Holding. McCown had been one of the early investors in 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide and, at that time,


SATS BY NUMBERS


• Number of SATS clubs: 113 in total – comprising 38 in Norway, 53 in Sweden, 10 in Finland and 12 in Denmark


• Number of Fresh Fitness clubs: Nine – three in Norway and six in Denmark


• Number of SATS members: 285,000 • Number of employees: 5,500 (approximately 1,400 full-time) • 2009 revenues: US$243.4m • 2010 revenues: US$246.9m • 2011 revenues (projected): US$274.5m • 2009 EBITDA: US$19.7m • 2010 EBITDA: US$27.8m


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owned it, so SATS became part of 24 Hour. By 2001, SATS had more than 100 clubs in Scandinavia. In 2002, SATS was bought back by its original founders,


with fi nancial assistance provided by Nordic Capital – a Scandinavian investment company. Four years later, it was purchased by Tryghetsgruppen, a privately-held Danish company that’s a majority stockholder in publicly-held insurance group Tryg. Tryghetdsgruppen has a long-term view with respect to its ownership of SATS, so it’s willing to invest in new clubs and upgrade existing sites.


AND SINCE YOU BECAME CEO?


Today, SATS has a total of 113 facilities and more than 285,000 members in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. Our clubs range in size from 1,200–3,500sq m (13,000–38,00sq ft). We offer studio training with free weights, plate-loaded and traditional strength training equipment and a wide variety of cardio options. We place a strong emphasis on classes, including some that we design ourselves, as well as well-known programmes such as Zumba and, from Les Mills International, BODYPUMP and BODYBALANCE.


TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR SATS-BRANDED CLASSES


The most popular are SatsCore, SatsCycling and SatsPowerStep. But perhaps the most original are: SatsCorePulse, offering high intensity interval training on the Reebok coreboard; SatsEnergy, which combines cardio training with drills from other sports such as running, athletics, soccer and American football; and SatsCore, a core workout that we’ve been offering for four years. SATS is committed to helping more people work out more


regularly, and we’ve observed that members feel safe and secure within the defi ned structure of group activities. Since


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