A St. Pete power couple are set to flex their business muscles.
In July, the Business Observer brought you the story of Corporate Fitness Works, the St. Petersburg company that for three decades has been a quiet leader in changing the way companies across the country think about employee health and wellness. CFW designs and manages fitness facilities for more than 80 client companies, including major household names like Sprint.
On Aug. 1, CFW was sold to former Valpak CEO Michael Michael Vivio and his wife, Beth, for an undisclosed sum. CFW founders Brenda Loube and Sheila Drohan had fended off numerous offers over the years despite having zero intent to sell the company.
Late last year, though, they began to talk with the Vivios, a St. Pete power couple — Beth has leadership experience in the nonprofit world, including a stint as executive director of a 13-county Girl Scout council — in their early 50s who were looking to buy a company “that does good in the world,” says Michael Vivio. “We wanted something we could believe in, and we went through a fairly long list of potential companies. CFW was not actively for sale, but that can be a good thing — you don’t have someone ‘shining up’ a company and giving you a false impression.”
Due to the loss of a major client, CFW experienced a 13% dip in revenue between 2015 and 2016, dropping from $17.81 million to $15.45 million, but then rebounded to $15.72 million in 2017 and is on pace to exceed $16 million in 2018. That blip was not a factor for the Vivios, who praise CFW as a “stable, well-run company” and characterize their negotiations with Loube and Drohan as akin to a grueling job interview.
“They might have maximized their dollars by selling to a competitor,” says Michael, “but they wanted to put their culture in the hands of people who understood it and would carry on their legacy. It was not simply a matter of [selling to] the first person to show up with money.”
CFW’s culture and legacy includes its status as a woman-owned business and key member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and that won’t change under the Vivios, who have set up Beth as the company’s majority owner. She’ll focus on operations and business development while Michael handles finance.
“This is a great opportunity for me to put my career front and center and for us to work together as business owners,” says Beth.