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INTERVIEW


The man with a plan


Zef Eisenberg is not yet 40 but he’s enjoyed 20 successful years in business, and is now looking for new challenges. He tells Nick Kirby where he goes from here


I


T’S VERY difficult indeed not to be seriously impressed by Zef Eisenberg. In 1991, aged just 18, he started writing books and newsletters on the subjects


of physical training and sports nutrition. A mere four years later he founded Maximuscle, which subsequently went on to become the largest sports nutrition brand in Europe. Having sold an initial stake in the


company in 2004, and a further stake in 2007, he sold his remaining stake when GlaxoSmithKline bought the entire shareholding in March 2011. Upon the sale, Zef stepped down from the business to explore new opportunities. There is no doubt that Zef is probably


best known for Maximuscle and his involvement in the sports and leisure industry. What is perhaps less well known is his active private equity investing and the substantial property portfolio he has accrued with his property management, development and investment company Maxicorp, which is one of the largest commercial and residential property holders in Jersey and Guernsey. So is that where he is going to focus


his energies now that he is no longer involved with Maximuscle? Zef spoke to businesslife.co about exactly how he got to where he is now and where he intends to go next.


30 businesslife.co October/November 2011


Earlier this year you stepped down from the board of Maxinutrition – how difficult was it letting ‘your baby’ go after two decades? It may sound odd, but if I’m totally honest I wasn’t bothered stepping down from the board. In fact, I was fairly keen to move onto fresh challenges, new ideas and let the new owners enjoy their purchase. I’d been gradually letting go of it piece by piece anyway – so by 2011, I had moved to a consultant role, allowing my exit to be swift and smooth.


So what are the fresh challenges and new ideas you are exploring? Obviously I have quite a lot of expertise in the sports, leisure and wellness field. Having spent 20 years in that industry, we (me and my investment team) are looking at various opportunities at the moment. We have two deals we’re close to doing something with, and we’ve also got some opportunities in the UK on the gym side. Whether we complete them or not is a matter of due diligence, but it would be nice to have one of them in the bag by the end of the year.


Do you have strict criteria about what you invest in? I’m reluctant to get involved with start- ups. While they can be fun, and it’s great to help people grow their business, they’re


a very high-risk investment as so many fail. One can put the same amount of energy into more mature businesses. Those I like most have three years of trading, audited accounts and a management team that can run the business and do the job.


Are you open to opportunities outside the leisure industry? I’m very much open to what comes along. Sometimes you come across a business which has been going for six or seven years, has always been profitable, has a track record of growth and a great management team, but the owner wants an exit – be it for personal or health reasons. That’s the ideal business because you have a motivated seller, a business that runs itself, a great team that is happy to be there and effectively it’s just an exchange of share ownership. We have looked at many businesses,


and I know the sports and leisure industry inside out. But if we get offered businesses that are well run and have the team and expertise there, we’ll look at it.


Have you had highs and lows, or have you generally been successful? I’ve always been successful in any endeavours I’ve done myself. The areas I’ve always had disappointment is in when I’ve trusted private equity to look after my money for me. I’m used





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