Putting an end to speculation in recent months, Virgin Group, the Branson family-owned investment group, has confirmed the formation of Virgin Sport, ‘an active lifestyle company that aims to revolutionize health and wellness through participatory fitness events and programs.’
Headquartered in New York, Virgin Sport will launch initially in the UK, and focus on core Virgin territories including the United States, South Africa and Australia through a combination of acquisitions and organic growth. Virgin Sport will also ‘consider entering other markets of interest which have potential for growth.’
Proven industry leader Mary Wittenberg has been appointed as Global CEO. After 10 years as President and CEO of New York Road Runners (NYRR) and Race Director of the TCS New York City Marathon, Virgin notes that ‘Mary brings vision and a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role.’
Wittenberg has led NYRR’s transformation into one of the world’s premier running organizations, with more than 400,000 people participating annually in NYRR’s 50 races and programs, including 50,000 runners, in the New York City Marathon, the world’s largest. Under Wittenberg’s leadership, NYRR created events such as the iconic NYC Half, and grew the NYRR’s many events and youth and community programs.
Mary Wittenberg was also a founder of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, a strategic alliance of the world’s major marathons of Boston, Chicago, New York, London, Berlin and Tokyo, created in 2006 to grow the sport of marathon running globally. She has been instrumental in making running more accessible to a broader audience.
As part of one of the world’s most respected consumer brands, Virgin Sport seeks to grow a global community by ‘re-imagining sport’ and expanding the reach of mass participatory events in running, cycling and other formats. Virgin Sport will aim to deliver unique experiences for participants and spectators alike while having a positive social impact on local communities.
Via a new digital platform, Virgin Sport will supplement its events with training and social opportunities providing support to people of all ages and abilities in leading active, healthy lives.
Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder, said “This venture is particularly close to my heart. Keeping fit and healthy is a key priority in my life, and is part of my daily routine. I am a big believer in having fun while making a difference and Virgin Sport will make that possible for so many more people. The events we run will challenge people to push the boundaries of what they believe is possible and help them live life to the fullest.”
He added, “We’re delighted to welcome Mary as Global CEO. She is a wonderful leader and has a great track record in building wonderfully inspiring events and a strong community. It’s great to welcome another superb CEO heading up one of our exciting new companies.”
Mary Wittenberg, Global CEO of Virgin Sport, said “It is an opportunity of a lifetime to launch and lead Virgin Sport. The Virgin brand stands for fun, innovation and making a difference. I’ve seen first hand over and over the transformative power of sport in people’s lives. Marrying Virgin and Sport, we want to create a new paradigm – sport for all. For life. No matter age or ability. As people desire to get healthier and fitter, Virgin Sport will be there with open arms and cheers, to encourage everyone to take part and to realise their fullest potential – often beyond their wildest dreams.”
Evan Lovell, Partner at Virgin Group, said “We are thrilled to have established and invested in Virgin Sport. This is both a large market and a highly fragmented sector with opportunities for a customer focused brand such as ours to establish a significant market presence. We have a long and successful history building and investing in businesses where we provide customers with unique experiences, and we believe Virgin Sport will not only be financially successful but will help change people’s lives for the better.”
Financial terms around the formation of the company are not being disclosed.
Virgin is a leading international investment group and one of the world’s most recognised and respected brands. Conceived in 1970 by Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Group has gone on to grow successful businesses in sectors including mobile telephony, travel & transportation, financial services, leisure & entertainment and health & wellness.