Active Lifestyle Industry Executives Michael Gerend and Mark Thom Join Norwest Equity Partners as Operating Partners
September 18, 2017
Minneapolis, Minnesota – Norwest Equity Partners (NEP), a leading middle market investment firm founded in 1961, has expanded its group of operating partners with the addition of Michael Gerend and Mark Thom. Gerend and Thom are consumer industry veterans who will focus on sourcing and evaluating investment opportunities within the active lifestyle industry, including health and wellness and consumer technology. They will also play an active role in strategic planning, business growth and corporate governance for NEP portfolio companies.
Tim DeVries, NEP Managing General Partner, stated, “The operating partner role at NEP provides a terrific resource to both our investment staff and portfolio company management teams. Both Mike and Mark bring years of extensive leadership, company experience, and broad industry knowledge that will collectively complement NEP’s active lifestyle investment strategy, giving our firm a competitive advantage with both seeking new investment opportunities and working with portfolio companies. The active lifestyle industry has proven to not only be recession proof but one that has continued to provide unmet societal needs over the years. There are a lot of exciting future opportunities.”
As a consumer and active lifestyle executive for the past 25 years, Gerend most recently worked as an executive leadership consultant working with management teams at multiple health and fitness-related operating companies where he helped them build and refine strategic direction to increase performance, scale and value. Most recently, Mike served as the CEO for Edge Fitness, a Connecticut-headquartered NEP portfolio company, where he worked with the founder team to guide the company’s transformation from a best-in-class, early stage concept to a ramping platform that is now expanding across the region and plans to eventually extend across the country. Gerend also worked at Life Time Fitness from 2003 to 2009 as President and COO and was responsible for driving growth and profitability across the company’s breadth of operational divisions. NEP was an investor in Life Time from 1996-2006, including taking the company public in 2004.
“During my time at Life Time, the team built arguably the strongest and most well-recognized health and fitness brand in the country, and I am looking forward to utilizing that experience to help build a number of new concepts to even higher standards. To that end, NEP was a solid partner during the critical stages of growth at Life Time, and when the opportunity was presented to work with them to build out an active lifestyle platform in this fabulous industry, it made perfect sense and we are off to a great start,” Gerend shared.
Following Life Time, Gerend served as President of Schwan’s Home Service where he was responsible for the operations, financial performance and strategic direction and growth of the largest frozen-food-delivery business in the United States. Highlights during his tenure include doubling of the online business, the launch and ramp of the company’s Schwan’s Cares fundraising program, network optimization gains, and NPS system implementation with top quartile performance. Gerend also worked in the airline industry as both CEO of Champion Air and Director of Regional Planning for Northwest Airlines. At both companies, he played an integral role leading operational and financial progress and was responsible for driving record revenue and profitability increases in growth as well as building the necessary teams, systems and performance cultures to rapidly acquire market share.
Similar to Gerend, Thom brings more than 26 years of active lifestyle, technology, and operations experience to NEP where he most recently served as COO at Movati Athletic, a Canadian-based NEP portfolio company. While at Movati, Thom was responsible for taking a confederation of fitness clubs and turning them into a company, including leading initiatives to re-name and re-brand the company, standardizing operations and organization structures, and creating a performance culture that balances the art and science of health club operations. Prior to Movati, Mark worked at Life Time Fitness as the Senior Vice President of Fitness and Nutrition Services where he scaled fitness operations and built a portfolio of innovative fitness studios and services. While at Life Time, Thom was the P&L owner and operator for all fitness and nutrition related business including Personal Training, Group Training, Indoor Cycling, Yoga, Pilates, Digital Fitness, Nutrition Coaching, Supplements, and Corporate Wellness. Thom was part of the core executive management team responsible for shifting the Life Time Fitness culture from a private, instinct driven health club chain to a public, ‘healthy way of life’ company that balances instinct with planning and analysis.
Thom, stated, “I’m excited to formalize my commitment to NEP by coming on board as an operating partner. The firm has established a terrific track record over the years, and I am honored to have the opportunity to be a part of their team. I believe the NEP active lifestyle team has the depth and breadth of experience, the industry relationships, and true passion for the space to make a significant impact.”
Prior to his tenure at Life Time, Thom’s career had stops in multiple high tech companies in the internet services, telecommunications, and aerospace industries. He served in multiple roles in both pre- and post-bubble Yahoo!, most notably as the Director of Product Management for Yahoo! Broadcast where he established and operated the product management function for the $50 MM business unit. At Nortel Networks he was responsible for developing marketing programs to encourage wireless service providers to invest billions of dollars to build the next generation wireless networks that are commonplace today. Finally, Thom began his career at Rockwell Space Operations Company where he was a Space Shuttle Mission Engineer providing engineering project management for Space Shuttle mission design teams.