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Gymshark valued over £1billion as private equity firm takes 21% stake

Sadiyah Ismailjee
14 August 2020

US private equity firm, General Atlantic has taken a significant stake in fitness and activewear brand Gymshark, in a move that has valued the company at more than £1bn.

General Atlantic now has a 21% stake in Gymshark for an undisclosed sum and will "facilitate further growth and international expansion", specifically into North America.

The deal has resulted to co-founder and chief marketing officer of Gymshark, Ben Francis increasing his stake to over 70%.

In addition, head of consumer for EMEA at General Atlantic, Melis Kahya Akar, will take a seat on the board.

Gymshark has joined a list of fewer than 25 British firms achieving Unicorn status since 2001.

Last month, a host of private equity firms were reported to be circling the fast-growing millennial sports brand.

Co-founder and chief marketing officer at Gymshark, Ben Francis said: "It has been an incredible ride over the last eight years to get to this point, but today signals the next chapter in the Gymshark story."

"We are nothing without our community, so we will use this new investment partnership to get even closer to them on a truly global scale."

"I’m incredibly proud of what Gymshark has achieved to date from our roots in Birmingham, but it’s all about looking forward."

"I firmly believe Gymshark has the potential to be to the UK what Nike is to the US and Adidas is to Germany, and today is a significant step to realising that."

Co-president, managing director and head of General Atlantic's business in EMEA, Gabriel Caillaux, commented: “We believe Gymshark is an authentic, disruptive and differentiated brand. Against a backdrop of rising social media usage, rapid growth of e-commerce and increasing focus on health and wellness, Gymshark is positioned to seize the opportunity of further growth.” 

Francis, who is one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs under the age of 30, established the brand as a screen printing operation with a fellow Aston University student. The pair would print and make gym kit on-demand in the early days and it has now grown into a fully fledged sports lifestyle brand with a highly engaged social following.

The brand made its name by creating streamlined sportswear, which while more mainstream now, was unusual at the time. It was also early to champion the idea of creating a community around the brand, something which it now fiercely protects, and to adopt a direct to consumer model.

Francis, whose title is now founder and chief marketing officer, handed the CEO reins to Steve Hewitt in 2017 who has been with the brand for more than five years. Hewitt had previously been managing director and previously held senior roles at Reebok and Sports Brands Group.

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