- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
Midlands-based sports fitness and apparel brand Gymshark has secured investment from private equity firm General Atlantic in a deal that values the company at more than 1 billion pounds.
Gymshark said in a statement that the strategic partnership with General Atlantic would allow the brand to “turbo-charge” its intentions to become a leading global fitness brand and allow for further international expansion.
The investment will see General Atlantic take a 21 percent stake in the business, and Melis Kahya Akar, head of consumer for EMEA at General Atlantic, taking a seat on the Gymshark board. While founder Ben Francis has increased his stake in the company to over 70 percent.
The 1 billion pounds valuation of Gymshark means that the fitness brand joins an exclusive list of fewer than 25 British companies to have secured ‘Unicorn’ status since 2001, achieving the feat in just eight years. It is also only the second British company to have reached this milestone without previous support from external investors.
The partnership with General Atlantic has been designed to facilitate further growth and international expansion, specifically into North America, where Gymshark has already established its largest customer base, explained the brand, and is being propelled by the greater demand for clothes that both assist performance and are stylish and comfortable, highlighted by fashion trends during the coronavirus lockdown.
Ben Francis, founder of Gymshark, said in a statement: “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.”
Gymshark valued at 1 billion pounds as it announces strategic partnership with General Atlantic
Gymshark was founded in 2012 by Francis when he was 19, in his parents’ garage, having been taught to sew by his Mom. As the company grew, so too did the leadership team, and in early 2015, Steve Hewitt joined as chief executive and Paul Richardson as executive chairman.
Since then, the company has achieved significant momentum, assembling a community of more than 12 million followers on social platforms, and striking a connection with the 16-24-year-old market and despite the ongoing global pandemic, Gymshark has continued to succeed, and reported its strongest quarter in Q1 2020 in terms of revenue growth and was recently recognised as the private company with the fastest-growing profits in the UK, with latest revenues of over 250 million pounds.
Francis added: “We have built a brand we can be proud of, from the products we manufacture through to the community we have grown, to the culture we have built both internally and externally. For me, today’s investment just signifies the beginning, but we will be sure to retain the ingredients that have made Gymshark the brand it is today. We look forward to working closely with General Atlantic to build our global footprint and ensure Gymshark becomes one of the global leaders in the fitness industry.
“I’d like to thank Steve Hewitt and Paul Richardson. Since they joined the company, it has grown rapidly. They’ve played a major role in helping steer the business through the good times and the tough times and have undoubtedly helped me with my own self-development over the last five years. In addition to Paul and Steve’s support, I’d also like to thank our senior leadership team for all they do. They’ve helped develop this business into what we see today, and I’m proud to work alongside such an incredibly ambitious, dynamic and humble group of people. Paul and Steve, with the senior leadership team, will continue to build this into a truly global brand.”
Gabriel Caillaux, co-president, managing director and head of General Atlantic’s business in EMEA, said: “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.”
Melis Kahya Akar, head of consumer for EMEA at General Atlantic, added: “Fitness apparel is a large and resilient market with growth potential. Gymshark has managed to create a substantial social community around its products and services, generating brand awareness and loyalty. We are thrilled to be partnering with Ben and the team to build on Gymshark’s offering globally.”
The global sports apparel market generated around 181 billion US dollars in revenue in 2019 and is forecast to reach around 208 billion US dollars in 2025, explains Statista, and Gymshark have placed themselves in a position to capitalise on the growth with the investment from General Atlantic.
Images: Gymshark website