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Virgin Active appoints Dean Kowarski as Group CEO amid new takeover of Real Foods Group

Executive Career Appointments and Promotions: Virgin Active (South Africa) announces the appointment of Dean Kowarski, founder of The Real Foods Group as Group CEO with immediate effect, along with the momentous acquisition of the lucrative nutrition assets in a R581 million deal.

  • Dean Kowarski, founder of Real Foods Group, appointed as global Group CEO of Virgin Active
  • Following 2 tough years for the fitness group due to Covid-19, which saw membership numbers dwindle, shareholders have committed to invest ÂŁ88.4 million to fund future growth opportunities
  • Virgin Active acquires the nutrition assets of the Real Foods Group to create, upon implementation, a combined wellness group
  • The fitness chain also announced an internal promotion of its current MD Mark Field to Group CFO

Virgin Active has announced the appointment of Dean Kowarski, founder of the Real Foods Group as Group CEO.

The former corporate financier started the Real Foods Group in 2013. He acquired the Kauai business in 2015 in a move which saw him grow the natural food chain from 100 stores to 204 sites under the brand, (including NÜ Health Café) with a combined labour force of over 2500 people across six countries.

Kowarski has been active in the health and wellness space for many years.  He also has had a close association with the Virgin Active business through the Kauai in-store concept throughout Virgin Active’s sites in South Africa in the past 18 years.

Matthew Bucknall, who had previously announced his intention to retire 25 years after co-founding the business, will step down as CEO. He will remain as a special adviser to the Board and as a Non-Executive Director of Virgin Active Italy. 

The company also announced an internal promotion of Mark Field, currently MD of Virgin Active South Africa, as the Group CFO. He will take up this position once a new MD for Virgin Active South Africa is appointed.

Virgin Active Sun Valley’s KAUAI (CapeTown).

The existing shareholders of Virgin Active, Brait and Virgin Group, will be investing an additional £20.2 million in the business. In addition, members of the investor consortium in Real Foods will invest GBP18.2 million and Titan Premier Investments (Pty) Limited (“Titan”), an investment vehicle of Christo Wiese, will invest GBP50.0 million to become new shareholders in Virgin Active.

Vigin Active said in a statement, the new capital will be used to support the business’ ongoing recovery and to accelerate future growth. 

Virgin Active also separately announced that it has acquired the nutrition assets of The Real Foods Group for GBP28.6 million.  “This acquisition is subject to a number of conditions precedent, including regulatory approvals, and is anticipated to be implemented in the second quarter of this year,” further read the statement.


*Browse the latest executive and senior roles on NOWInSA/Career Appointments and Promotions page. 

Tankiso Komane
Tankiso Komane
A Tshwane University of Technology journalism graduate, Tankiso Komane has a vast experience in print & broadcast media business and has worked for some of the country’s biggest daily newspapers, including The Sowetan, The Citizen, The Times, and The New Age. Through her varied work as a journalist, notably as a copywriter for SABC1 (On-Air promotions) and as a publicist for Onyx Communications, she has developed an in-depth understanding of the nature of the media business and how to use it for the purpose of exposure. Her expertise in journalism across various disciplines, coupled with a good reputation, has laid the foundation of a new kind "trust in Journalism" as the media ecosystem continues to digitally evolve.
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