By AMIE TSANG
INVESTORS GET FITNESS FEVER The self-help therapy pedaling session held in dim lighting to the sound of a primal dance beat has developed a cultlike following. Now the craze has spread from Victoria’s Secret models and hedge fund wives to Wall Street financiers, who want to ride to big bucks on the back of SoulCycle’s initial public offering, Julie Creswell reports in DealBook.
SoulCycle started out as a single studio in Manhattan in 2006. Now it operates 41 locations nationwide. It is fueled by wealthy investors, including the billionaire real estate mogul Stephen M. Ross, who owns the health club chain Equinox, which acquired a majority stake in SoulCycle in 2011.
Julie Rice and Elizabeth Cutler, the co-founders, have already largely cashed out. They each received a payout of nearly $90 million in the spring when Equinox increased its stake.
The spinning phenomenon has set off a boom in fitness boutiques, whose backers also happen to be some of their best customers.
Flywheel Sports, a New York competitor, has received funding from the family of Lew Frankfort, Coach’s former chief executive, as well as from the private equity firm Catterton Partners. “A lot of private investors are also our consumers,” said Ed Kinnaly, the chief executive. “We have a lot of financial industry folks, Wall Street or hedge fund executives, who are looking for a great workout in a short amount of time.”
Peloton Cycle sells $2,000 stationary bikes for home use and then streams unlimited live classes into homes for $39 a month. It counts Tiger Global Management among its investors. “We are right now targeting affluent users,” said John Foley, who founded Peloton Cycle. “If we sold only to the top 5 percent, we would have a $5 to $10 billion business.” Barry’s Bootcamp, the cardio and strength training program that claims to “shock” the body at the cost of $34 a session, has also sold a stake to a private equity firm.
All of these fitness centers are after people with money, as well as calories, to burn. And their ambitions go beyond a 45-minute class. SoulCycle’s initial public offering prospectus says it hopes to expand to 250 studios in the United States alone, as well as reaching clients at home and selling a workout clothing line.
VALEANT BUYS MAKER OF ‘FEMALE VIAGRA’ DRUG Sprout Pharmaceuticals, which on Tuesday won regulatory approval for the first pill to aid a woman’s sex drive, will be bought by Valeant Pharmaceuticals International for about $1 billion in cash, Andrew Pollack and Chad Bray report in DealBook. The deal will bring a sizable return for investors in Sprout, which is privately held and has 34 employees. A total of about $100 million has been invested in Sprout since its formation in 2011.
The company was set up by Robert and Cindy Whitehead, a couple with a long history in the pharmaceutical industry. They used it to acquire the female libido drug, Addyi, after the Food and Drug Administration decided not to approve it and its previous owner abandoned it.
Valeant, known for growing through acquisitions, said Sprout would be the core of a new business focusing on women’s health. J. Michael Pearson, the chief executive of Valeant, said that Sprout was approached three or four weeks ago after an advisory committee had recommended that the drug be approved, but that Valeant had waited until the approval actually passed before signing a deal.
“I thought this would be a drug that a lot of pharmaceutical companies would not want to pursue, given the controversial nature of it,” he said, adding that would mean Valeant could pay a reasonable price. Addyi has been controversial in part because of a lobbying campaign for its approval. It had also been rejected twice before.
Valeant will pay $500 million in cash initially and another $500 million in the first quarter of next year. Investors in Sprout will be entitled to a share of future profits based on the achievement of certain milestones.
Although a lack of sexual desire is estimated to affect one in 10 women, Addyi’s commercial prospects are uncertain. Addyi is not supposed to be used by women who drink alcohol, which could significantly curb sales. It is also not clear how many insurers will pay for the drug, which might be deemed by some as a lifestyle product rather than a treatment for a medical condition. Addyi is expected to cost about $400 a month without insurance.
Mr. Pearson of Valeant said that if health plans paid for male erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra, it would be difficult for them not to also pay for Addyi.
Sprout will be a bargain for Valeant if the pill meets sales expectations, Robert Cyran writes in Breakingviews. But the drug is not very effective, has some worrisome side effects and could be subject to regulatory restrictions that may crimp sales. Mr. Cyran also points out that during the F.D.A.’s approval process, Sprout promised not to advertise the drug on television or radio for 18 months. All these limits, he says, may leave Valeant with a bitter pill.
FRESH GREEK ELECTIONS Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece called for new national elections in a bid to consolidate power and press ahead with the bailout plan, Niki Kitsantonis and Jim Yardley report in The New York Times. Officials said he would seek to schedule the vote for Sept. 20.
“Your vote will determine if we represented you courageously in talks with the creditors, if this agreement is enough for us to emerge from the crisis,” Mr. Tsipras said in a nationally televised address.
The prime minister has been considering an election for weeks after Syriza factions split over his embracing the latest bailout plan.
The deal gave Greece billions of euros in new aid from other eurozone countries, which it used to repay existing debt. This included a payment on government bonds held by the European Central Bank, which would have put Greece into default. Greece narrowly avoided another crisis by making the payment on the day it was due, Jack Ewing reports in The New York Times.
Elected in January as an anti-austerity renegade pledging to get a better deal for Greece, Mr. Tsipras has since reversed course and agreed to a new bailout program, which infuriated Syriza’s far left. It was passed only with the help of opposition parties.
The resulting defections raised the possibility that Mr. Tsipras would not have the support to prevail in a parliamentary test of confidence in his leadership – a possibility he avoided by calling for new elections.
Analysts had thought elections might be postponed until October, after the first review of Greece’s progress under the new bailout.
It remains unclear whether Mr. Tsipras’s call for snap elections might further destabilize the economy in the short term. Yields on Greek bonds rose on Thursday, an indication that investors see more economic risk as the country heads into elections.
Mr. Tsipras is betting that voters’ weariness of more instability will garner him enough support to form a new government without hard-line dissenters on the left.
ON THE AGENDA John Deere holds a conference call on its third-quarter results at 10 a.m. Meg Whitman, chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, is a guest on CNBC at 9:05 a.m.
THE GLOBAL SELL-OFF Stock markets around the world plummeted on Thursday as the shocks from China’s devaluation and fears about the health of the global economy continued to reverberate, Peter Eavis reports in DealBook. The sell-off then continued for a second day on Friday, deepening across Asia, Neil Gough writes in DealBook.
The biggest source of concern appears to be China’s economy. The country surprised the world last week by changing the way it manages its currency. Many analysts viewed the devaluation partly as a desire to stimulate the country’s economy by making Chinese goods cheaper in other currencies. But it stoked suspicions that China’s economic situation may be worse than its official figures show.
Investors are also fretting over whether the Federal Reserve will raise rates soon. Minutes from the July meeting were released this week and showed that officials were wary about global growth prospects before China’s devaluation.
The sell-off on Thursday was compounded by new data on Friday showing weakness in the Chinese economy. Output in the manufacturing sector contracted in the first three weeks of August at the fastest pace since the depths of the financial crisis.
Chinese shares led the rout on Friday morning with stocks in the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges both falling by as much as 5 percent in afternoon trading. The Nikkei 225 closed down 3 percent. All freely traded Asian currencies had weakened against the dollar except for the yen.
Gold, a popular asset in times of uncertainty, rose more than 1 percent in afternoon trading.