Weider Health & Fitness Buys Weslo Inc. for the Exercise

Times Staff Writer

Weider Health & Fitness, the privately held Woodland Hills publisher of fitness magazines founded by body builder Joe Weider, has bought Weslo Inc., one of the nation's largest makers of home exercise equipment.

Neither Weider nor Weslo executives would disclose the price Weider paid for Weslo, which is based in Logan, Utah, and is expected to operate as a division of Weider Health. The sale was final Friday.

A Weider spokesman would only say that Weslo has annual sales of more than $90 million. Scott Watterson, president and chief executive of Weslo, which is also privately held, would not comment on the accuracy of the figure.

Weider's company is best known for publishing the fitness magazines Flex; Muscle & Fitness; Shape; and Sports Fitness, which have a total circulation of 1.7 million. Weider has previously claimed that the company's revenues are about $200 million annually.

Weslo, founded 10 years ago as a maker of wood-burning stoves, now makes exercise bicycles, treadmills and rowing machines under its own name and also for retailers such as Sears. It claims to be the nation's largest maker of indoor exercise trampolines.

Watterson said Highland Associates, a private investment firm based in Boston, bought a controlling interest in Weslo three years ago. Watterson and Gary Stevenson had previously owned the company, which they had co-founded as business students at Utah State University along with a partner, Blaine Hancey.

The purchase of Weslo is a major expansion into the exercise equipment field for Weider, which already sells such exercise equipment as dumbbell sets and weight-lifting benches.

The family-owned company was founded by Joe Weider, 64, a Montreal native who began by publishing a fitness newsletter in 1940. Weider, chairman of the company, once placed in the top five in a Mr. Universe contest. He is friends with body builder and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who credits Weider with helping him land his first film role in a mid-1970s B-movie called "Hercules in New York."

In addition to publishing magazines, Weider sells nutritional supplements such as "Bib," a powder mix, and various nutritional products for body builders.

In 1985, the company agreed to pay at least $400,000 to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint that Weider falsely claimed that its "Anabolic Meta-Pack" and "Dynamic Life Essence" vitamin pills promoted muscle growth.

The FTC said the pills were "virtually worthless." The company did not admit guilt, but said it agreed to the settlement to avoid a costly court fight.

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