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Since his family purchased World Gym International in 2009, Guy Cammilleri has slowly built the company back into an international brand and distanced itself from previous owner Planet Fitness.
The Cammilleri family (from left, Guy, Joyce, Marcus and Leo) have owned and operated World Gym International since 2009. Photo courtesy of Guy Cammilleri.
At the end of 2013, World Gym had 210 gyms in 14 countries. Internationally, the company has enjoyed strong growth in Taiwan, led by Americans John Caraccio, founder and president of World Gym Taiwan, and CEO Michael Sanciprian. World Gym Taiwan has 25 locations, with four more in pre-sale that are expected to open by June.
The latest international World Gym opened this month in the Czech Republic, the company's first gym in that country. The Czech Republic gym is co-owned by World Gym's franchisees in Russia. Closer to home, the company has 19 gyms committed to open during the next several years in the eastern part of Canada, Cammilleri says.
When Cammilleri took over World Gym in 2009, about 70 percent of World Gyms were in the United States, he says. Today, the breakdown of domestic to international World Gyms is about 60/40 as the company looks to become more of a global brand.
"We do need to figure out how to instigate more growth in the U.S.," Cammilleri says. "At the same time, we're not going to turn away good growth just because it happens to come from outside the U.S. Our prediction is we probably will have more gyms outside the U.S. than in the U.S. within five years. We're OK with that because we see ourselves as a global brand that just happens to be American, just like Coca-Cola and Nike and Harley-Davidson are global brands that happen to be American born. We're OK with being ranked with those companies someday, and that's our goal."
As the company expands, however, it is not forgetting its roots. World Gym was founded in 1976 in Santa Monica, CA, by Joe Gold, who also is the founder of Gold's Gym. Like Gold's Gym, World Gym's legacy includes the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno. Last year, World Gym presented Ferrigno with its Joe Gold Lifetime Achievement Award at the company's convention in Las Vegas. This November, World Gym will be the title sponsor of the first annual Ferrigno Legacy bodybuilding show.
Although World Gym is not shying away from its bodybuilding past, Cammilleri wants World Gym to welcome members who are not bodybuilders but who are serious about fitness, citing CrossFit athletes as examples.
"World Gym is famous because of people like Joe Gold and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno and the glory days of Muscle Beach," Cammilleri says. "We see our roots coming from that. Let's embrace that in a way that openly acknowledges our bodybuilding history but also opens up a broader, serious fitness path globally where we're attracting the CrossFitters of the world, and we're attracting athletes.
"Our perspective is: If a great bodybuilder or athlete or CrossFitter is working out at one of our gyms, and our trainers are the best trainers in town, are we going to be intimidating to some people? Maybe. But people who are really serious about getting in shape or losing weight, maybe they're going to look at World Gym as the more serious way of doing that, or the more committed way of doing that."
That philosophy, it appears, has helped distance World Gym from Planet Fitness.