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California Fitness Chain Explores Options to Ease Debt After Virus Shuts Gyms

(Bloomberg) — In-Shape Health Clubs is exploring strategic options including a debt restructuring, raising capital or a potential sale as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on gym operators, according to people with knowledge of the matter.



A person disinfects dumbbells at a gym.


© Bloomberg
A person disinfects dumbbells at a gym.

The California fitness chain, which laid off the majority of its employees in March, is working with an adviser as it considers alternatives after the coronavirus caused it to shut more than 60 locations, said one of the people. They asked not to be identified because the talks are private.

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The company, which has been reopening some of its fitness centers, has been owned since 2013 by Fremont Private Holdings, an arm of the San Francisco-based private investment office for the Bechtel family, and Pulse Equity Partners LLC.

Representatives for In-Shape and Pulse declined to comment, while a Fremont representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Starved of revenue amid government restrictions intended to fight the pandemic, U.S. fitness chains have fallen into distress. Several have filed for bankruptcy, including 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide, Gold’s Gym International and Town Sports International LLC, the owner of the New York Sports Clubs and Lucille Roberts.

Debt Pile

In-Shape has about $70 million in debt, split across a $17 million revolving credit facility and a $53 million first-lien term loan, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The company traces its roots to 1981, when a single racquetball club in Stockton, California, was turned into a full-service health club. Before the pandemic, the chain had grown to more than 60 clubs in California, offering swimming, tennis, basketball and other activities, according to the company’s website.

Earlier this month, the California Fitness Alliance — which In-Shape is part of — said it filed legal action in Los Angeles County Superior Court seeking to restore “reasonable” access to indoor fitness, citing benefits to physical and mental health.

“We created strict guidelines to ensure public safety when exercising indoors, so Californians could receive the health benefits associated with exercise and help expand the fight against Covid-19,” Francesca Schuler, Chief Executive Officer of In-Shape Health Clubs, said at the time. “When the state briefly reopened, these protocols worked.”

Schuler cited a CFA study showing that of the more than 5.5 million members who checked into 785 fitness centers between June 12 and July 13, only 0.002% tested positive for the virus, with no cases reported as a result from visits to fitness centers.

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Investors Extracted $400 Million From a Hospital Chain That Sometimes Couldn’t Pay for Medical Supplies or Gas for Ambulances

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In the decade since Leonard Green & Partners, a private equity firm based in Los Angeles, bought control of a hospital company named Prospect Medical Holdings for $205 million, the owners have done handsomely.

Leonard Green extracted $400 million in dividends and fees for itself and investors in its fund — not from profits, but by loading up the company with debt. Prospect CEO Sam Lee, who owns about 20% of the chain, made $128 million while expanding the company from five hospitals in California to 17 across the country. A second executive with an ownership stake took home $94 million.

The deal hasn’t worked out quite as well for Prospect’s patients, many of whom have low incomes. (The company says it receives 80% of its revenues from Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.) At the company’s flagship Los Angeles hospital, persistent elevator breakdowns sometimes require emergency room nurses to wheel patients on gurneys across a public street as a security guard attempts to halt traffic. Paramedics for Prospect’s hospital near Philadelphia told ProPublica that they’ve repeatedly gone to fuel up their ambulances only to come away empty at the pump: Their hospital-supplied gas cards were rejected because Prospect hadn’t paid its bill. A similar penury afflicts medical supplies. “Say we need 4×4 sponges, dressing for a patient, IV fluids,” said Leslie Heygood, a veteran registered nurse at one of Prospect’s Pennsylvania hospitals, “we might not have it on the shelf because it’s on ‘credit hold’ because they haven’t paid their creditors.”

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In March, Prospect’s New Jersey hospital made national headlines as the chief workplace of the first U.S. emergency room doctor to die of COVID-19. Before his death, the physician told a friend he’d become sick after being forced to reuse a single mask for four days. At a Prospect hospital in Rhode Island, a locked ward for elderly psychiatric patients had to be evacuated and sanitized after poor infection control spread COVID-19 to 19 of its 21 residents; six of them died. The virus sickened a half-dozen members of the hospital’s housekeeping staff, which had been given limited personal protective equipment. The head of the department died.

The litany goes on. Various Prospect facilities in California have had bedbugs in patient rooms, rampant water leaks from the ceilings and what one hospital manager acknowledged to a state inspector “looks like feces” on the wall. A company consultant in one of its Rhode Island hospitals discovered dirty, corroded and cracked surgical instruments in the operating room.

These aren’t mere anecdotes or anomalies. All but one of Prospect’s hospitals rank below average in the federal government’s annual quality-of-care assessments, with just one or two stars out of five, placing them in

Global Medicine Automated Dispensing Cabinet Market 2020 Industry Chain structure, Market Competition, SWOT Analysis Report by 2025

The MarketWatch News Department was not involved in the creation of this content.

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Suspected ransomware attack disrupts hospital chain

A suspected ransomware attack disrupted patient care at a large chain of hospitals and clinics operating in the United States and Britain, the latest in a series of cyberattacks on the health care system in recent months.

Universal Health Services said in a statement it suffered “an information technology security incident” on Sunday which “may result in temporary disruptions to certain aspects of our clinical and financial operations.”

UHS, which operates 26 acute care hospitals and other health facilities in the US and Britain, said acute care and behavioral health operations were “utilizing their established back-up processes including offline documentation methods.”

The cybersecurity blog BleepingComputer said the attack appeared to be using Ryuk, malware linked to North Korean hackers which encrypts computer systems until a ransom is paid.

One UHS employee told BleepingComputer that files were being renamed to include the .ryk extension used by Ryuk.

Employees discussing the attack on online message boards said ambulances and patients were being redirected from UHS hospitals to other facilities.

The incident marked the latest in a string of cyberattacks on health care facilities in recent months, with hackers preying on outdated computer systems and the belief that hospitals would be likely to pay a ransom to avoid endangering patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

Security researchers have said several other hospital systems have been hit by ransomware in recent weeks with possibly fatal consequences.

“More and more groups have started to steal data and using the threat of releasing it as additional leverage to extort payment,” the security firm Emsisoft said in a recent blog post.

“Cybercriminals are better resourced and more motivated than ever.”

Emsisoft said at least 219 organizations in the US government, education and healthcare sectors, including “multiple hospitals” have fallen victim to ransomware attacks.

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