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interview


Millennium Partners’ head of club M&A and new club development, and the chair of IHRSA, talks to Kate Cracknell about combining skills with passion and the fitness industry’s opportunity to evolve


DR ART CURTIS Y


ou almost need an entire feature just to cover the full diversity of Art Curtis’ CV. Or should I say – and this rather


illustrates my point – Dr Art Curtis. “My undergraduate degree was in


business administration, while my graduate degrees were in applied physiology, which has always been my passion,” he explains. “Fortunately I’m one of those lucky people whose interests and skills merge together, and I’ve worked in a fi eld that I’ve really enjoyed for over 35 years. “My career breaks down into a couple


of distinct phases. I spent most of the 1970s in an academic environment, fi rst as a graduate student and research assistant, then as a professor. I was involved in the sports medicine centre at the University of Maryland, for example, where we did a lot of work for organisations such as the Washington Redskins – the local professional football team. This was back in the early 70s, when the amount of science applied to training was minimal, but we essentially served them in the role – before it really existed – of strength and conditioning coach, taking physiological measurements and developing training programmes for the players.”


beyond the ivory tower He continues: “My first foray outside of academia was into corporate fitness, a field that was just starting to open up. I joined a company called The American Health Management and Consulting Corporation, which built, managed and operated large, in-house fitness facilities.


28 “I was then recruited by US Health Inc,


which owned brands such as Holiday Spa and Holiday Health Clubs and which was eventually bought by Bally Total Fitness. I served as director of education and research programme development, helping to conceptualise new club models and prototypes – generally a bit bigger and more sophisticated in terms of the programmes and training we were offering. We grew the estate by 25 sites in the space of four or fi ve years. “After that I wanted to get into an


operating role, so in the early 80s I joined The Columbia Association.” A large planned community located


between Baltimore and Washington, Columbia was created in 1967 by James Rouse and was based on the idea that a city could enhance its residents’ quality of life. “Rouse was an interesting individual – not only a rather brilliant real estate person, but also very socially conscious. He was trying to create a diverse utopian community,” explains Curtis. “As part of this, there was a huge infrastructure of recreational facilities: over 20 swimming pools, three athletic clubs when I was there – I think today they have four – plus tennis clubs, golf courses, a marvellous indoor aquatics facility and so on. I ran the division that operated all of those facilities. “Then, in the late 80s, I went to work


for a company called Club Sports International, which later became known as Wellbridge, joining them to launch a new club in Atlanta. In fact, we opened three large clubs down there in the space of 30 days, and I stayed with the


Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital


company for almost 15 years, eventually becoming COO and overseeing 48 clubs in 16 states across the US. “My fi rst opportunity to become CEO


was with a company called Stonewater, a spa venture underwritten by a private equity fi rm called Falconhead Capital, which was acquiring day spas around the US to form a much larger company. I came in to replace the founding CEO and helped get the business organised, put systems in place and improve the overall fi nancial performance in order to ultimately merge it with a much larger company. That took me up to 2005, which is when I came on board with Millennium Partners.”


a new millennium


“Millennium Partners is first and foremost a real estate development company, in business since around 1991. The three founding partners had all worked together previously and had an idea of something they wanted to do in New York City. They were able to acquire a slightly run-down area just to the west of Central Park and turned it into an urban kind of amenitised environment: high-rise condominium towers along with street-level theatres, restaurants, entertainment, high-end retail. It takes up most of three city blocks. “One critical component of the


project was a very signifi cant athletic club – the Reebok Sports Club New York, a 13,940sq m (150,000sq ft) club spread over seven fl oors. The Sports Club Company developed and operated


april 2011 © cybertrek 2011


WORLD WORLD


FOCUS


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