Dumping Equinox? Great. But Look Where You Leap
Equinox owner Stephen Ross isn’t the only fitness titan supporting that party you don’t like.
Like so many movements, moments and memes in this world, it all happened so fast. Seemingly minutes after The Washington Post revealed that Stephen Ross, the billionaire owner of Equinox and SoulCycle, among other entities, was hosting a fundraiser for… you know… , Equinox was trending on Twitter, calls for a boycott gained serious steam, and headlines were generated across verticals. Celebrities weighed in on social media. Out magazine Editor Phillip Picardi called for a Fashion Week boycott of Hudson Yards — the monster New York development from Ross-owned Related Companies.
As a brand, Equinox is built not only on an image of beautiful bodies, but on a progressive, inclusive persona. The company is known for its annual Pride campaign, and for its provocative ad campaigns featuring double breast feeding, and models with double mastectomies. So, needless to say, the Equinox base is liable to have zero chill when it comes to funneling their money, no matter how indirectly, into certain stubby-fingered hands.
Equinox did itself no favors with a surprisingly clueless PR response in which it described Ross as a “passive investor.” Perhaps only “feral hogs” has been more roundly mocked as an excuse for the inexcusable.
The people who work out at Equinox tend to REALLY like Equinox, so it’s a striking testament to the importance of corporate values to consumers that so many saw the Ross news as a dealbreaker and canceled their memberships, or at least started talking, loudly, about canceling their memberships.
Where to go?
Maybe Planet Fitness which is, in many ways, positioned at the anti-Equinox? Its brand and its physical spaces manifest a “judgement-free” philosophy. The gyms have a tradition of serving pizza on Mondays. Pizza! (if you brought a pizza into an Equinox, you and the pie would likely be put into counseling). It supports anti-bullying causes, and the Boys and Girls Scouts! It’s got an inclusive brand identity.
But, if you’re pulling out of Equinox over its associations with the GOP regime, you may want to keep looking.
Below, a short rundown of Planet Fitness vis a vis political and social expression. The takeaway: it’s more and more important today to look where your money is going. Corporations, whether they’re real estate conglomerates, or spin emporia, are massively powerful, and interconnected forces in our lives. Now that the stakes are higher, and there are more alternatives in every category, all consumers should be deciding what matters to them most, and looking under the hood before they buy.
Based in: Hampton, NH
Public (NYSE PLNT)
Ownership/leadership: Planet Fitness was started in New Hampshire, by Michael and Marc Grondahl in 1992.
Chris Rondeau, who joined the company working at the club’s front desk in 1993, rose through the ranks to become CEO in 2013. In the fall of 2013, TSG Consumer Partners LLC became an equity partner. TSG’s portfolio is vast and includes: Stumptown, HUDA Beauty, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Voss, Comet, Spic and Span, Famous Amos and Vitamin Water.
According to the Open Secrets database, CEO Chris Rondeau has donated to GOP candidates including Donald Trump and Andy Sanborn, a Republican senator from New Hampshire, who has been endorsed by the NRA and by the Gun Owners of America Political Victory Fund and who received a 100% rating from New Hampshire Right to Life (a Vote Smart rating that shows where an incumbent has stood on a series of votes in the past one or two years).
Rondeau has also contributed to NH Republican governor Chris Sununu.
TSG CEO Charles Esserman has contributed to Republican candidates including Mitt Romney and to the Republican National Committee.
Diversity / Women
Of eight executives listed on its leadership page, 7 are male.
Of six board members listed on its site, two are women.
Planet Fitness has been an active supporter of the Boys and Girls Scouts of America, and teamed with the organization to launch the national philanthropic initiative, The Judgement Free Generation. In 2016, the company donated more than $1 million to the program. It’s also been active in the anti-bullying cause. The chain partners with PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, the nation’s leading nonprofit bullying prevention organization, on initiatives including the “Bullying Prevention 101,” educational resource “designed to equip teachers, counselors and other educators with tools to empower students to prevent bullying and stand up for kindness.”
The “Judgement Free Zone” policy extends to the locker rooms. In the past, LGBT advocates have applauded the chain for its policy vis a vis transgender members using locker rooms: “Planet Fitness is committed to creating a non intimidating, welcoming environment for our members. Our gender identity nondiscrimination policy states that members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity” ( the chain has been involved in a lawsuit brought by an irate member over the locker room issue).
Cartel is about what and who is behind the things you’re buying.