Friday 9 December 2016

'My gyms aren't for sale - unless you have €100m to spare', Dunne tells buyers

Greg Harkin and Patrick Kelleher

Published 01/11/2016 | 07:43

Ben Dunne. Picture: GERRY MOONEY
Ben Dunne. Picture: GERRY MOONEY

Businessman Ben Dunne has confirmed he has no intention of selling his lucrative gym business and is expanding instead.

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Mr Dunne (67) operates 10 fitness centres in Dublin and has plans for seven more.

He has dismissed claims that the chain is up for sale, saying he has just completed a deal to expand the chain into Waterford and has plans for outlets in several other counties, including Wexford, Carlow and Galway.

EXPANDING

"I'm confident the model we have in Dublin is right for the rest of the country," he said.

"I believe people in many other areas are paying over the odds for their gyms and that's one of the reasons why we are expanding."

Ben Dunne
Ben Dunne

He said increasing footfall in Dublin will see three million visits this year.

"That's almost double the number of people who go to watch horse racing right across the country every year," he said.

The Cork-born businessman said he has no plans to sell the gym company.

"It's not for sale. But if someone wants to offer me €100 million for it, I wouldn't turn them down," he said.

Ben Dunne Gyms have been operating since 1997, when the first centre opened in Blanchardstown.

The expansion of the no-frills gym empire outside Dublin could drive down membership costs at other centres.

The businessman and owner of the gym empire, who was kidnapped by the IRA and held captive for six days in 1981, was a director of family business Dunnes Stores before he started his chain of fitness centres.

In 2010, he attempted to expand his gym empire to Dun Laoghaire but was forced to withdraw the plans after 25 complaints were lodged with the local authority.

Mr Dunne told the Herald at the time that the objections were "very legitimate" and added: "I don't want to waste time and money fighting it to be turned down."

The objections related to the size of the car park and the planned playing pitches. Mr Dunne added that he could move the planned gym to another location and not receive the same objections.

expand

The locations of most of the new gyms have not yet been announced but he said last April that he ultimately hopes to operate 20 gyms.

The chain employs 70 people, with that number likely to expand as Mr Dunne opens new gyms across the country.

Last April, Mr Dunne said that he plans to double gym revenue over the next four years. He added at the time that he hopes to leave a strong business behind him upon retirement.

Herald

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