The site of America's most famous muscle beach is the birth place of one of the world's best-known muscle makers. Gold's Gym, which first opened in Venice Beach, California in 1965, has more than 600 gyms in some 30 countries, with franchises accounting for most of its locations. The chain boasts more than 3 million members. In addition to opening franchises, the firm buys smaller regional health clubs and converts them to Gold's Gyms. The company also licenses the Gold's Gym name for products such as fitness equipment and accessories, luggage, t-shirts, and men's and women's sportswear. Gold's Gym is owned by TRT Holdings, the umbrella company for Dallas-based investor Robert Rowling's holdings.
Once the only major chain in the fitness club industry, Gold's Gym has faced increased competition in recent years with aggressive entrants such as Curves International, a fast-growing women-only gym, and the always-open locations of 24-Hour Fitness. In response to comptition from no-frills rivals such as Planet Fitness, in 2011 Gold's rolled out its Gold's Gym Express alternative, a lower cost version of its full-service gym concept. Gold's Gym Express does away with individual personal training and group classes, and memberships are on a no-contract, month-to-month basis. The first Express locations were opened in Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.
International growth has been a particular area of emphasis for the company. Gold's Gym has locations in Spain, Sweden, and the Philippines. In addition, it has a 20-year contract with a franchisee covering India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives markets. In the Middle East, a 2010 agreement with Al Ahli Holding Group, an organization based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), called for new Gold's Gyms to be built in four Arab Gulf countries -- UAE, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain. The deal also allows for Al Ahli to operate more than 60 clubs in about a dozen countries, including Cyprus, Jordan, Morocco, and South Africa.
Back at home, the recently restored "Mecca" club in Venice, California is one of the company's more than 60 company-owned locations. (Given its intense, no-frills atmosphere, that gym was dubbed the "Mecca of Bodybuilding.") The Venice location was featured in the 1978 Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie Pumping Iron, propelling the company into the spotlight. After selling Gold's Gym, company founder and body building luminary Joe Gold went on to found World Gym in 1977. Gold's Gym was acquired by TRT Holdings in 2004 for about $158 million. – less