Dallas’ Chris Roussos took over as president and CEO of 24 Hour Fitness in May. courtesy of 24 Hour Fitness

Business

It’s ‘Game On’ for Growing 24 Hour Fitness

The CEO of the fitness chain giant is known for driving the success of quickly expanding companies.

Chris Roussos, who was president and CEO of Dallas-based Epic Health Services when Bain Capital Private Equity agreed to buy it last year for as much as $1 billion, says he first joined 24 Hour Fitness USA, the giant health-club chain, as a member back in the 1990s.

Working out has been a regular part of Roussos’ routine since his professional career in the Army, where he served for 11 years.

So Roussos, who’d spent the last 16 years or so as a senior executive with various healthcare companies, says he was “honored” when San Ramon, California-based 24 Hour Fitness called him about the company’s opening for a chief executive officer. He threw his hat in the ring and started the new job in May, continuing—for now at least—to live in Dallas, where he has a house and his children go to school.

“I spend a ton of time all over the U.S., so being in Dallas-Fort Worth with access to Love Field and DFW Airport is advantageous,” Roussos says. “I spend a week or 10 days every month in California, and the rest of the time I’m visiting the markets.”

24 Hour Fitness has quite a few of those.

The 34-year-old fitness chain, which boasts 22,000 employees and nearly 4 million members, operates more than 420 clubs in 13 U.S. states. The company has about 485,000 members and 71 clubs in Texas, including 31 in Dallas-Fort Worth.

With revenue estimated at $1.42 billion last year, 24 Hour Fitness was ranked the nation’s third-largest health club on a list of the Top 100 Health Clubs of 2017 compiled by Club Industry, a trade publication for health and fitness professionals. LA Fitness and Life Time Fitness were Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.

Roussos says that 24 Hour Fitness—owned by an investment group led by private equity firm AEA Investors and the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan—will continue focusing on a leadership development program and its “Boots 24 Military Recruitment Initiative.” The company also is talking with managed care organizations about its corporate wellness programs. “I thought I was in healthcare before, but I was in sick care and didn’t know it,” Roussos says. “Now I’m really in healthcare!”

Roussos is well known in the business world for driving the success of fast-growth, multi-unit companies. At Epic Health Services, for example, he helped preside over an acquisition tear, snapping up eight companies in one year for a total of 17 in three years before the sale to Bain.

By the end of next year, 24 Hour Fitness predicts, the company could have about 470 clubs. “We’re going to run our play, open new locations, and do what we do really, really well,” Roussos says. “It would be nice to be No. 1 or 2, but that’s not how we get out of bed every day. With my background and experience, though, it’s game on now.”

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