Dana Loesch, Lindsey Vonn, Michael Oreskes: Broadsheet Feb. 22
Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Moms are at the forefront of the gun control debate, Lindsey Vonn says goodbye to skiing, and we meet the CEO of Equinox. Happy almost-Friday!
• Queen of the 'nox. For the March issue of Fortune, I wrote about fitness, and in particular about Niki Leondakis, who took on the CEO role at Equinox just under a year ago. In one sense, her timing couldn’t be better. She took the reins at the luxury sports club at a time of warp-speed growth for the industry. Health club memberships in the U.S. grew by 26% from 2009 to 2016. In 2016 alone, 2 million Americans joined gyms, bringing the estimated number of regular gym-goers to 57.3 million. Equinox has 92 locations and is preparing to open at least eight more in 2018, as well as its first-ever hotel—fitness is a lifestyle, after all—in early 2019.
But those cheery statistics belie the fact that a fitness industry carve-out is underway, allowing high-touch luxury brands and low-touch value brands to flourish as middle-market clubs suffer. Equinox and upscale workout studio chains like Orangetheory, Flywheel, and Rumble are expanding aggressively as bare-bones gym chains like Planet Fitness, which starts at $10 a month, rack up new memberships. Meanwhile, Town Sports International, owner of mid-market clubs in the Northeast (New York Sports Clubs, et al.), just clawed its way back from the brink of bankruptcy with a market capitalization of about a quarter of what it was a decade ago.
People are working out more than ever—and at the high end, they want an exclusive experience. And while many of her competitors are turning to streaming—Flywheel, Classpass, and Peloton have all launched new at-home products in the past few months—Leondakis isn’t particularly concerned about the influx of technology into the fitness business. People are still going to gyms because of the promise that, as she puts it, “they can live their best lives.” Fortune
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Moms are rising. Women—particularly mothers—are on the front lines of the debate about gun control. In this editorial calling for stronger regulation, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director and co-founder of MomsRising.org, a left-leaning advocacy organization, writes about her own daughter's experiences with gun violence. “Adults don’t get it. We’re the first generation living in a time when mass shootings are almost normal," Rowe-Finkbeiner quotes her daughter, Anna, as saying. Guardian
• Dana v. Leslie. NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch participated in CNN's town hall conversation with Parkland shooting survivors last night, offering the gun right's group's first public comments since the tragedy. “People who are crazy should not be able to get firearms,” the mom of two said, insisting that enforcement of mental health laws, not new gun restrictions, would prevent future massacres. Loesch is one of the most prominent female defenders of gun rights in the U.S. After her CNN appearance, the NRA tweeted, "Thank you for being the voice of over 5 Million #NRA members, alongside a GIF of Parks and Recreation's Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler. The show's creator, Michael Schur, tweeted a message from the actress (who isn't on the social media platform): "Can you tweet the NRA for me and tell them I said f*** off?'" New York Times
• Cuban had no clue? Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban denies any previous knowledge of allegations of sexual misconduct against two of his former employees, details of which emerged in a Sports Illustrated investigation. How could Cuban, who has a reputation for being a hands-on NBA team owner, be unaware of such charges? He says he was “not involved in the day to day” of the business and deferred to the CEO and to HR. The problem, of course, is that former CEO Terdema Ussery was allegedly one of the worst offenders (accusations range from inappropriate remarks to requests for sex to touching women’s thighs during meetings). "I am deeply disappointed that anonymous sources have made such outright false and inflammatory accusations against me,” Ussery told SI. Fortune
• Add 2 to the list. Ford's North America president Raj Nair is leaving the company following an internal investigation into reports of inappropriate behavior. The inquiry determined "certain behavior by Nair was inconsistent with the company's code of conduct." Nair's response: "I sincerely regret that there have been instances where I have not exhibited leadership behaviors consistent with the principles that the Company and I have always espoused. Meanwhile, Thomas Schumacher, president of Disney Theatrical Productions, has been accused of sexual misconduct and harassment. Through an associate, Schumacher denied the allegations, while a Disney spokesperson told WSJ that “complaints are thoroughly investigated and appropriate action is taken” at the company.
• USA! USA! USA! Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins won the women’s team sprint freestyle race at the Olympic Games yesterday, becoming the first American athletes—of any gender—to win an Olympic gold medal in cross-country skiing. Also notable: Randall is the only mother on Team USA. New York Times
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Women Who Code announced that Pinterest Engineering Manager Kinnary Jangla has joined as the newest member of their Advisory board. Yvette Martinez-Rea has been named CEO of North America for esports company ESL.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• It's over, says Vonn. Lindsey Vonn, widely recognized as the greatest female ski racer ever, says that 2018 will be her last Olympic Games. "I wish I could keep going. I have so much fun. I love what I do," the athlete said yesterday, after taking home a bronze medal in the downhill, her signature event. "My body just can't, probably can't, take another four years." ESPN
• From growing to governing. Female farmers are joining the ranks of Democratic women running for office this cycle. So far, the list includes: Emily Best, the general manager of Tuscarora Organic Growers Co-Operative, who is the first Democrat to run for the state senate seat in her Pennsylvania locale in more than 10 years; Kriss Marion, a farmer running for Wisconsin state senate; and Kathleen Vinehout, a dairy farmer running for governor in Wisconsin. Politico
• Oreskes was an open secret. An outside legal review of NPR's handling of allegations against its former top news executive, Michael Oreskes, "found that questions were raised about his behavior toward women even before he was hired [!!!] And concerns about misconduct were reportedly flagged throughout Oreskes' 2 1/2-year tenure at the network right up to the day he was fired." NPR
• Diversity pays dividends. If Hollywood needs more reasons to cast diverse actors, consider the draw of Black Panther. Women represented 45% of the movie’s audience—compared to 38% for an average superhero movie—and African Americans made up 37% of viewers (compared to a 15% average). When you consider that the film brought in more than $426 million worldwide over President’s Day weekend, those audiences are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Fortune
ON MY RADAR
Black Panther is groundbreaking, but it’s Shuri who could change the world FiveThirtyEight
#MeToo's late Asian arrival Bloomberg
Judy Chicago, the godmother New York Times
Sara Jacobs could be the youngest congresswoman ever Cosmopolitan