Virgin Active appoints new boss as it expects shift in gym trends in South Africa

 ·15 Jun 2022

Virgin Active South Africa has appointed Jessica Spira as its new managing director effective from 1 October 2022.

This follows the announcement in March of the appointment of Dean Kowarski as the group chief executive of Virgin Active globally.

Spira, a chartered accountant, is a senior investment banking executive with over 22 years of experience in strategic business development, relationship management and deal origination in both debt and equity markets. She joined Rand Merchant Bank in 2001 and now heads the bank’s healthcare and hospitality sector.

“With Jessica as MD and a strong team, Virgin Active South Africa will be able to capitalise on the fast-growing health, wellness and fitness market, and will enable Virgin Active to deliver new and innovative experiences to the South African consumer,” Kowarski said.

“We are seeing an increased demand for community-based exercise and a move away from pandemic-era online fitness. Leadership in the gym industry has been dominated by males so the appointment of Jessica will bring a fresh perspective.

“Jessica was a pioneer at RMB in developing solutions to support the aspirations of women in financial services and will bring this passion to our industry too.”

Capital injection 

At the time of Kowarski’s appointment, the group announced that substantial new growth capital was injected into the business.

Brait and Virgin Group, the existing shareholders of Virgin Active, committed £20.2 million. Certain members of the investor consortium in Real Foods have invested £18.2 million and Titan Premier Investments Limited, an investment vehicle of Christo Wiese, committed £50 million.

Virgin Active also announced that it has acquired the nutrition assets of The Real Foods Group including 204 Kauai stores for £28.6 million. This acquisition is undergoing regulatory approvals.

Upon implementation, the Real Foods Group nutrition assets will be combined with Virgin Active to create a new wellness group, it said.

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