Financial News

  • 15 January 2014, 7:16

Virgin Active Raids Birds Eye For New Chief

Sir Richard Branson's health and fitness chain is raiding a frozen food company to complete its senior management line-up as it gets fit for a stock market debut.

Sky News understands that Virgin Active is close to appointing Mark Burrows, deputy finance director of Iglo, the owner of Birds Eye, to become its new finance chief.

His arrival is expected to be announced shortly, and will herald an acceleration of the company's planning for an initial public offering as it fashions a global expansion.

Virgin Active, which is jointly-owned by the private equity firm CVC Capital Partners, is considering whether to float in London, Singapore or South Africa, where it has a significant presence in the health and fitness market.

Mr Burrows' hiring will follow a reshuffle of Virgin Active's management, which saw Paul Woolf, himself a former Iglo finance director, elevated to the chief executive's job last autumn.

A former executive at BSkyB, the owner of Sky News, and Virgin Mobile, Mr Burrows is understood to have been attractive to Virgin Active because of his experience working for private equity-backed companies.

Virgin Active is one of the biggest gym chains in Britain, and internationally now has more than 260 clubs with well over 1m members.

Last week it announced plans to invest 100m in upgrading facilities at its UK sites.

The Sunday Times reported two days ago that its shareholders are in talks to appoint STJ Advisors, a City firm which specialises in helping companies list on the stock market.

Virgin Active counts among its ambassadors Laura Robson, the British tennis player who on Monday was knocked out of the Australian Open in the first round.

A Virgin Active spokesman declined to comment.

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