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Planet Fitness Has Been ‘Pretty Much Destroyed,’ Says Company Founder Amid Speculation On Boycott Cancellations

Planet Fitness Inc. (NYSE:PLNT) Founder and CEO Mike Grondahl detailed a history of rampant abuse at the company and alleged it misrepresented its financials during a recent interview with controversial right-wing X user Libs of TikTok.

This comes after weeks of calls for boycotts of the brand after the company canceled the membership of a Planet Fitness gym goer after speaking out about a biological male in the women’s locker room.

Planet Fitness’s policy allows gym members to use the locker room associated with their gender identity. But this policy has led to a few high-profile cases of women feeling uncomfortable in Planet Fitness women’s locker rooms, and some women and children have reported abuse and sexual harassment at the facilities. Many of these incidents resulted in the women losing their membership, but an arrest was made in at least one instance, as previously reported by Benzinga.

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In the 15-minute interview, Grondahl outlined the history of the company and the reason behind its founding. Grondahl started the gym, noting the Judgement Free Zone was meant to be a welcoming signal to novice gymgoers looking for a place to start. But when speaking about the company today, Grondahl says it’s “devastating” what it’s become.

“Planet Fitness was like another child for me. And I put my heart and soul into building that company and it’s been pretty much destroyed in, ya know, it’s lost all respect within the country within the last couple weeks,” he said. “There’s no common sense standing behind this.”

Grondahl told Libs of TikTok he didn’t approve of the policies or the response to them in recent weeks. Grondahl sold the company to private equity in November 2012 and lost control. Following the sale, he remained CEO until he was ousted after he reported that the chief administrative officer (CAO) and general counsel hired by the private equity firm had been found guilty of multiple charges over several years and abused minors on several occasions.  In two instances, he was a teacher and was found guilty of abusing his students. The CAO left Planet Fitness in 2017.

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“When we went public, the majority of the board knew that this lead attorney was a pedophile. It’s in the culture.” Grondahl said during the TikTok interview.

The Planet Fitness “culture” includes accusations of widespread abuse at the company.

“It started at the corporate office, this attorney started abusing employees, then he’s abusing them sexually, now the culture leads into the people doing the right thing are being thrown out of Planet Fitness,” Grondahl said.

While it’s clear Grondahl is not a fan of the policies and politics going on at Planet Fitness at any level, he went on to detail some more claims that might end up further hurting their stock price. Grondahl said, “Their numbers are very suspect,” referring to Planet Fitness’s financials. Grondahl, having founded and led the company for over a decade, has a deep understanding of the interworking and economics needed to open a Planet Fitness location.

“I hope those people are buying in short because the way that they report their same-store sales and the amount of units that they can say that they can put in America is complete bullsh*t,” Grondahl said.

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About 60,000 people must live in an area to maintain a 10,000-member Planet Fitness club.

According to the 2020 U.S. Census, there are currently 650 cities in the U.S. with more than 60,000 members and only 806 with more than 50,000 people.

Planet Fitness has 18.7 million members across 2,575 gyms around the world. It would likely require tens of thousands of members or more to begin to make a dent in its bottom line. While this is possible, it’s notoriously difficult to cancel a Planet Fitness membership unless you’re one of the people speaking out against the company. One short report from the “Bear Cave” in January 2023 dubbed Planet Fitness an “illegal billing operation with gyms on the side.” Planet Fitness is down 23% since that report came out.

That doesn’t mean members aren’t trying. According to Google Trends, there’s been a 2,800% surge in inquiries such as “how to cancel Planet Fitness membership on app.” Google marked “How do I cancel my Planet Fitness membership” as a “breakout” trend, noting a recent rise in search results for this query.

Near the end of the video, Libs of TikTok account owner Chaya Raichik said there have been “mass cancellations” although nothing has been confirmed or substantiated.

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