Nigerian PE Firm Exits i-Fitness in $12 Million Deal, Marking Positive Sign for African Startups.

20 Mar 2024

Cardinal Stone Capital, a prominent Nigerian private equity firm, has successfully exited its investment in i-Fitness, the country's leading fitness and gym chain, through a sale to Verod Capital Management, another private equity firm. This move represents a complete exit for Cardinal Stone, who held a 65% stake in i-Fitness, and comes amid concerns about limited exits in African startups.

The deal saw Cardinal Stone sell its stake for $12 million, valuing i-Fitness at $18.5 million, according to sources familiar with the transaction. This exit, amidst challenging economic conditions in Africa, serves as a positive signal for both the fitness industry and the broader startup ecosystem.


“This has been an incredible journey for us,” said Yomi Jemibewon, Managing Director of Cardinal Stone. “We believed in Foluso's [i-Fitness founder] vision when others hesitated, navigated the challenges of the pandemic closure, and ultimately exceeded our growth goals ahead of schedule.”

Cardinal Stone, the first institutional investor in i-Fitness, entered the company in 2019. During their investment period, i-Fitness expanded to 21 branches across four Nigerian cities, boasting over 26,000 active members. The gym offers high-end equipment, personal trainers, and yoga instructors, attracting customers with its premium offerings.

Despite initial projections of reaching 100,000 subscribers by 2024, i-Fitness currently sits at 26,000, requiring significant growth this year to meet its target. However, the company demonstrates potential for continued expansion, offering hope for its future under Verod Capital's leadership.


Rand Merchant Bank Nigeria Limited and CardinalStone Partners Limited served as joint financial advisors on the sale, while Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie provided legal counsel to Cardinal Stone during the transaction.

This successful exit by Cardinal Stone showcases the potential for profitable investments in African startups despite recent economic headwinds. It offers optimism for the future of the continent's entrepreneurial landscape, particularly in the promising health and fitness industry.


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