Esporta selects first marketing chief

Esporta, the upmarket health and fitness club operator, has appointed Alex Pike as its first marketing director as it gears up to introduce new services such as dentistry and health checkups.

Pike is part of a new management team installed after Esporta was taken private by Duke Street Capital Leisure Investments in July. The bid valued Esporta at around £145.5m, up 9% from the venture capital company's original hostile offer of £133m.

Esporta has more than 200,000 members at more than 50 clubs under brands including Riverside and Racquets.

Esporta has lost five senior managers since it floated in summer 2000, and issued two profit warnings in the nine months to July.

Pike reports to chief executive Kevin McCollum and succeeds Mike Berger-North, who as marketing manager was the most senior marketer under former chief executive Maurice Kelly. Berger-North's plans are not known.

Esporta is expected to attempt a merger with Cannons next year, as Nick Irens, new chairman of Esporta, attempted to marry the two companies when he was chairman of Cannons in 1999. He has admitted he still sees the potential for combining the two businesses.

But now he is focused on introducing new services to set Esporta apart from more mainstream club networks such as David Lloyd Leisure.

These services will include dentistry, physiotherapy and annual medical checks, in a bid to turn Esporta clubs into 'one-stop shops' for all health requirements. Pike will set the marketing strategy for promoting these offers to new and existing members.

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