January 21, 2014

Miami Marathon purchased by Life Time Fitness

One of the country’s leading fitness-related companies has bought the Miami Marathon and all the races formerly owned by US Road Sports & Entertainment.

The Miami Marathon and Half Marathon, approaching another 25,000-runner sellout, will celebrate its 12th anniversary on Feb. 2.

On Friday, the event took a giant stride toward what organizers expect will secure the race for many more years.

Life Time Fitness, Inc., a publicly-owned Chanhassen, Minn.-based “healthy way of life company” that operates fitness centers and running/cycling/triathlon events throughout the nation, acquired ownership Friday of the Miami Marathon and the other events previously owned by US Road Sports & Entertainment Group.

“I don’t just think this is a good thing, it’s a great thing,” said Miami Marathon co-founder Frankie Ruiz, the event’s chief running officer. “We’ve made it to where the marathon needs to be at today, a place we all hoped we’d get to at one point. Life Time Fitness is a company that has the resources across the board – not just financial – to make this race even greater than it already is.”

The Miami Marathon, considered the crown jewel of US Road Sports, will go on as usual with the same staff, said Ruiz and Life Time Fitness vice president of athletic events Kimo Seymour. And with the added resources of a new owner that generates $1.2 billion in annual revenue, the marathon is expected to secure a title sponsor for the 2015 Miami Marathon.

“We’re not about going out and buying a bunch of stuff that is dying on the vine and about to fall apart if we don’t come in and save it,’’ said Life Time spokesman Jason Thunstrom. “These are already best-in-class, well regarded, well-run diamonds in the portfolio. So from a change standpoint, the expectations I would set would be to continue to fuel what already is great.”

Thunstrom said the purchase price will not be made public.

Miami, which had ING as its title sponsor from 2006 through 2013, lost the lucrative sponsor after last year's marathon.

The New York City Marathon in November was ING’s final race in North America.

Seymour said Life Time has “a number of sponsors already very interested” in partnering with the Miami Marathon. “We had to be a little guarded with the discussions because we were under a confidentiality agreement through the acquisition process. There is an appetite out there already for next year’s title sponsorships.’’

Along with the Miami Marathon, US Road Sports also produced the Palm Beaches Marathon, Salt Lake City Marathon, Georgia Marathon, New Jersey Marathon, the Publix Escape to Miami Triathlon, Baptist Health South Florida Turkey Trot – and several half marathons around the country, including in Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

Those races have all been taken over by Life Time Fitness, a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Chicago Half Marathon, which Life Time Fitness took over in September, was named by Runner’s World as one of “The Year’s Best Half Marathons.’’

US Road Sports & Entertainment Group acquired PR Racing, which formerly produced Miami’s marathon, just before the 2008 race.

“We have partnered with PR racing in an effort to further develop the event, as well as develop the running community in South Florida,’’ Greg Laird, a lawyer who earned his master’s degree in management at Stanford, said at that time. “We don’t want the event to be static. We want to help grow it.’’

Grow, it did.

About 11,600 competitors had registered when US Road Sports took over in 2008.

Today, that number has been capped to the 25,000, which the race reached for its 10th anniversary in 2012.

Said Ruiz, who has been with the Miami Marathon since its inception in 2003: “I think Miami is on the cusp of being noticed by the rest of the world. Now we’ve been noticed by one of the leading fitness companies in the world. They definitely have a true sense of the industry. This isn’t a group of investors looking to grow something and turn it over.

“This is a company that has a lot to it.”

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