The owners of a family-owned group of Gold's Gym locations in the San Francisco Bay area announced
Monday they do not support antigay donations made by the owner of the
brand and will be leaving the franchise when their contract is up in
Sebastyen and Zsolt Jackovics — brothers who, with other family members, own four Gold's Gym locations — told The Advocate Monday that their legal team is looking into whether they can leave their contract before the September 15, 2012, expiration date.
"What's clear to us is that we don't see any circumstances that we can continue after what's happened," Sebastyen Jackovics said.
As reported last week, Richard Rowling, founder and CEO of TRT Holdings, which owns the Gold's Gym brand, donated $2 million to American Crossroads, a major player behind several antigay candidates in this year's midterm and local elections. American Crossroads was founded by George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove.
The gym, which now has 600 locations and 3 million members, was established in Venice, Calif., by Joe Gold in 1965. TRT Holdings also purchased Omni Hotels in 1996 before purchasing TRT Holdings in 1999.
Gym members took their concerns to staff members, and many were clearly upset, Jackovics said. Over the past few days the managers of the four locations met to come up with a plan for dealing with upset gym members. Don Dickerson, the director of operations for Gold's Gym Bay Area, sent an e-mail to members Monday announcing that the owners plan to give up its franchise association to the company.
The plan includes matching franchise fees to Gold's Gym with donations to LGBT charities. In some cases the donations will exceed the franchise fee.
"It is very unfortunate that the CEO of TRT Holdings has chosen this course of action," the letter reads. "We do not support it in any way. Our original contractual obligations to Gold's Gym International were signed over 22 years ago and TRT Holdings is just the latest in a series of ownership groups that has presided over Gold's Gym."
A poster of the e-mail was also placed in the gyms, including the Castro location.
Zsolt Jackovics said no matter the outcome of the controversy, their locations will remain supportive of the local gay community. About 300 independent owners, including the Jackovics family, are working on a joint statement condemning Rowling's donation.
Additionally, David Reiseman, the communications director for Gold's Gym International, sent a statement to The Advocate on Monday, also distancing itself from TRT Holding's CEO.
"Gold's Gym did not make a donation to American Crossroads (or any other political organization) and in no way supports antigay causes," the statement reads. "Quite the contrary, the Gold’s Gym family has been strong supporters of the LGBT community over the years. This includes supporting pride events, sponsoring LGBT media outlets, and donating to various LGBT charities in the communities we serve."
Reiseman also said that most Gold's Gym locations in the United States are independently owned and operated by franchisees. The owners of one such franchise, the gym in Hollywood, Calif., also issued a statement Monday, affirming that it is not owned or operated by TRT.
"While certainly the happenings reported recently are disappointing, disheartening, and inconsistent with our beliefs, Gold's Gym Hollywood has always acted independently, with our only responsibilities and allegiances to our members and the communities we serve," owners said.