SAN RAMON, CA -- On Mark Mastrov’s official last day at 24 Hour Fitness yesterday, a spokesperson for the company confirmed that four additional executives have left the company.
The departing executives are Tony Bakos, vice president and general counsel; Mike Feinman, vice president; Don Harbich, vice president; and Adam Loew, vice president of new club development. Feinman, who resigned on Jan. 28, is now the chief operating officer for Gold’s Gym International.
The company released the following statement about the departures: “24 Hour Fitness is dedicated to growing our business and to providing world-class service to our members. As part of this ongoing commitment, we regularly evaluate our resources and organizational structure and make strategic adjustments where necessary. Our recent personnel changes are consistent with these objectives, and we wish our former team members success in their future endeavors. 24 Hour Fitness is proud of its heritage as a leader and innovator in the fitness industry. Our executive team is excited to have the opportunity to lead the company into the next phase of its evolution.”
Mastrov, who founded 24 Hour Fitness in 1983, resigned two weeks ago as chairman of the board with an effective last day as Jan. 31. The company issued a brief notice about his resignation to 24 Hour employees, but nothing official has been posted on the company’s Web site. Upon request, Club Industry’s Fitness Business Pro received a short statement from the company on Jan. 15 about Mastrov’s departure.
In the statement, Carl Liebert, 24 Hour CEO, said, “Mark Mastrov has provided solid leadership to our company for the past 25 years. His commitment has made a lasting impact on not only our company, but on our industry as well. The board of directors and I wish Mark the best in his future endeavors.”
The statement noted that Mastrov would be pursuing other opportunities. Mastrov could not be reached for comment about his departure or his plans for the future.
However, some in the industry are puzzled by the way Mastrov’s departure was handled.
“The way that it was communicated by the company to Mark’s own colleagues was disrespectful,” says John McCarthy, former executive director of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). “The debt that 24 Hour owes to Mark is immeasurable. The company could have and should have communicated Mark’s resignation in a manner that unambiguously honored Mark. That didn’t happen, which disappointed many people.”
In 1983, Mastrov borrowed $15,000 from his grandmother and bought a 10 percent stake in 24 Hour—which was then a 5,000-square-foot club in San Leandro, CA—before eventually buying out his partner. Today, 24 Hour is the highest-revenue producing company in the industry, serving more than 3 million members in more than 400 clubs worldwide.
Mastrov moved from CEO to chairman in 2006 after Forstmann Little & Co. named Liebert, a former executive at The Home Depot, as its new CEO. The move came a year and a half after Forstmann Little & Co. purchased 24 Hour for $1.6 billion.
“Mark is still a young man,” McCarthy says. “To date, he has created, from scratch, a company that is the envy of the worldwide health club industry. No one has ever done before what he managed to do. It is a Horatio Alger success story of epic magnitude.”
Ray Wilson, who sold his 68-club Family Fitness Centers to 24 Hour in 1995 for $95 million, calls Mastrov “the greatest person that’s ever been in the fitness industry. Period. Nobody, in my opinion, has come close to Mark.”
Mastrov’s departure could give him more time to devote to Augie’s Quest, an organization that raises money to find a cure for ALS, the disease that has afflicted Life Fitness founder Augie Nieto. Mastrov was the brainchild behind The Bash for Augie’s Quest, a fundraiser that debuted at the IHRSA show in 2006. He was chairman for the first two events and remains on the founder’s committee for the event. McCarthy is chairman of this year’s event, which takes place March 7 in San Diego.
“Mark has played an instrumental role in the success of The Bash for Augie’s Quest and also for Augie’s Quest in general,” says Shannon Shryne, who coordinates Augie’s Quest initiatives as the national director of business development for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which has an ALS division. “Our hope is that he continues to stay involved. We’re very confident that his future will be as successful as his past has been.”
In an e-mail forwarded through Shryne to Club Industry’s Fitness Business Pro, Nieto wrote of Mastrov, “Mark and I have been friends for over 25 years. Your friendship is truly defined when adversity happens. Mark was one of the first people to reach out. He has held my hand and helped me have the courage to dream of a day that ALS will be a treatable disease, not a death sentence.”