The Fitness First branch in Dubai Festival City. Trainers are crying foul over non-payment of commission. Image Credit: Megan Hirons/XPRESS

Dubai: Landmark Group has acquired the Fitness First franchise business in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region through its investment arm Landmark Investments.

Landmark Group said it intends to absorb all employees of the existing Fitness First outlets in the Middle East.

The transaction, which has been completed, includes 100 per cent buyout of the business from current franchise Awwal Fitness Ltd, a Jebel Ali free zone company and part of the Alhokair Group of Saudi Arabia. Alhokair Group is also a major owner of the Landmark Group in Saudi Arabia.

Fitness First Plc is the largest privately-owned health club group in the world with more than 540 Fitness First clubs spread across the globe, reaching 1.4 million members across Europe, Australia, Asia and the Middle East.

Micky Jagtiani, chairman of the Landmark Group, said: "We are excited about this very significant expansion of Landmark Group into the health and fitness segment. Fitness First is a globally recognised brand with an enthusiastic following that fits perfectly into our fast-growing cluster of retail and hospitality brands."

The Fitness First Middle East franchise business presently operates 16 outlets in Bahrain, Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Landmark Group looks forward to expanding the operations and providing the "Fitness First experience" to a much larger base of customers in the Mena region.   

Fawaz Alhokair, chairman of the Alhokair Group, said: "We are proud with what we have achieved in such a short time. I am sure the Fitness First brand is in safe hands with the Landmark Group’s expertise and we look forward to seeing even greater achievements in the future."

Colin Waggett, CEO of Fitness First, said: "The development of our franchise business is an increasingly important part of our strategy and we are delighted to partner with Landmark Group to continue the growth of our business in the Middle East region."

The acquisition comes on the heels of a series of several growth initiatives, marking the continuous diversification of the Group from its traditional fashion and retail business.

Landmark Group is the leading retail and hospitality group based in Dubai, with a turnover of $3.8 billion (Dh13.97 billlion).

Landmark Group opened its newly-built Oasis Centre in Dubai last year. It made retail history in the Middle East with the opening of 25 retail outlets and three restaurants spread over 300,000 square feet of retail space, at a single location on a single day at Mirdif City Centre.

Landmark Group has also launched its own mid-segment hotel brand, Citymax, and unveiled a $150 million expansion drive across the Middle East in the next three years.