Verod buys i-Fitness stake for $12 million in PE Shuffle

West African private equity firm Verod has acquired a 65% stake in Nigeria's leading fitness chain i-Fitness from CardinalStone in a $12 million deal.

Verod buys i-Fitness stake for $12 million in PE Shuffle

Foluso Ogunwale founded i-Fitness in 2015, a low-cost gym chain in Nigeria. In 2019, CardinalStone Capital Advisers (CCA) bought a 65% share becoming the company's first institutional investor. At that time, i-Fitness had under 3,000 members and 50 employees across five locations in Lagos.

"With CCA, we did not only build a business that is now leading the fitness industry in West Africa, but we also built a friendship, stayed laser-focused on achieving set objectives and worked together through good and hard times," Ogunwale said. "Ten weeks into our partnership, we shut down operations for six months due to COVID-19. We lost a significant amount of money but still kept our growth mindset intact. Promoting fitness and having the opportunity to touch many thousands of lives gives us a true sense of fulfilment."

Now, i-Fitness has grown to over 26,000 active subscribers and has over 500 employees across 21 locations in four Nigerian cities. As of February 2021, i-Fitness reportedly spent over ₦2 billion ($5.2 million) operating across Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Ibadan, with monthly subscriptions varying between ₦19,890 ($12.38) and ₦24,890 ($15.5), and a one-time fee of ₦18,896 ($11.76) for new members.

Nigeria's leading fitness chain, i-Fitness, switched hands on Wednesday as CardinalStone Capital Advisers (CCA) sold its 65% stake to Verod, a private equity firm focused on African startups, for $12 million. "We are pleased to be exiting to a trusted financial investor that is committed to carrying on the journey we started with Foluso. This story exemplifies the role we set out to play with the CCA Growth Fund, in developing SMEs in our markets into industry leaders with transformational impact at scale,"  according to Yomi Jemibewon, Partner at CCA.

Verod invested in i-Fitness via its $200 million Capital Growth Fund III which was closed in December 2019. The investment strategy for the fund is to focus on middle market growth companies in anglophone West Africa, to build a diverse portfolio across several industries including light manufacturing, consumer goods and services, business services, agriculture, education, healthcare and financial services.  

"This collaboration transcends mere financial investment," Verod said in a statement seen by "It embodies a shared vision for fostering a healthier and more active West Africa. By making fitness accessible and affordable for all, Verod and i-Fitness Centre Ltd. aim to cultivate a culture of well-being and empower communities through job creation and skills development."

With Verod at the helm, i-Fitness is setting its sights on regional expansion, with plans to renovate existing facilities and create job opportunities, especially for women, through targeted hiring initiatives.

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