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Mark Wahlberg-backed F45 pops on IPO day. The actor says the workouts have incredible energy

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Key Points
  • Global fitness company F45 Training, backed by actor Mark Wahlberg, made its market debut on Thursday.
  • "The energy is absolutely incredible" at the company's studios, Wahlberg told CNBC from the floor of the NYSE before the stock started trading.
  • Founded in 2013 in Australia, F45 Training offers what it calls functional 45-minute studio and home workouts for people across all fitness levels.

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Celebrity investor Mark Wahlberg joins F45 CEO on trading debut

Global fitness company F45 Training, backed by actor Mark Wahlberg, made its stock market debut Thursday.

Under the ticker symbol FXLV, it started trading on the New York Stock Exchange and went as high as $17.75 per share on its first day for a $1.6 billion market cap. The initial public offering of 20.3 million shares was priced Wednesday evening in the middle of the expected range at $16 per share. The company raised $325 million. The stock drifted back toward its offering price in afternoon trading, closing up 1.25% at $16.20 per share.

Before the stock opened, Wahlberg, known for his physique and his intense early morning workouts, told CNBC from the floor of the NYSE why he likes the company's approach so much.

"Die-hard fitness enthusiasts who don't have the schedule, got to do it in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning, don't want to get on a bike. That's fine. But eventually that becomes, stagnant and boring," Wahlberg said. "You want to be in there with the energy of people working out with you, alongside you, inspiring you, pushing you and supporting you." He added, "The energy is absolutely incredible."

Founded in 2013 in Australia, F45 Training offers what it calls functional 45-minute studio and home workouts for people across all fitness levels. It has new workouts each day, inspired by a database of over 3,900 high-intensity interval training exercises consisting of both cardio and resistance.

The company currently has 1,555 studios and 2,801 franchises across 63 countries, and aims to ultimately have more than 23,000 studios worldwide.

"People at any level of fitness can come in and do the workout, and I had never seen that before," Wahlberg said on "Squawk Box." "Somebody who's clearly in the beginning of their fitness journey working out with somebody who is an elite athlete, and being able to do the same exercises, where they're modified, never the same exercise twice. It's absolutely fantastic."

Mark Wahlberg, left, and Adam Gilchrist, CEO, F45 Training Holdings at the New York Stock Exchange, July 15, 2021.
Source: NYSE

In addition to Wahlberg, F45 Training said in its IPO filing that it has promotional relationships with basketball legend Magic Johnson, soccer great David Beckham, standout golfer Greg Norman and super model Cindy Crawford.

The company plans to use $190.7 million of the IPO's net proceeds to repay debt, $2.5 million to give select cash bonuses for select employees, and $25 million to acquire the Flywheel indoor cycling chain.

"We're going to be opportunistic with that capital," F45 founder and CEO Adam Gilchrist told CNBC, standing next to Wahlberg. "We've been fiscally conservative since 2013, having never had an unprofitable quarter, and there's not many start-ups that have been growing at this sort of breakneck speed that can boast that."

Gilchrist called the company's acquisition of Flywheel a "great investment" because he said the cycling chain had invested $65 million in technology, saving F45 Training about $40 million on costs and the three years, he believes, it would have taken F45 to build that technology.

F45 Training prides itself on providing a judgement-free zone, Gilchrist said, adding the company's studios are considered "sanctuaries" for members, with no mirrors and no scales. The program applauds people for coming in three times a week.

An average F45 Training studio has 175 members while the company's break-even point — when total revenue equal total expenses — is 75 members, he said. The CEO added that 75% of the company's members are female and 25% are male, with the general age demographic ranging from 25 to 42 years old.

The small membership size develops a tight-knit community within the studios, he said, where members show up at 6 a.m., and know each other by name.

"We are a premium product where they pay anywhere up to $3,000 a year," Gilchrist said, adding that the company's monthly retention rate is in the "low single digits."

Wahlberg said the company has seen people in the second months of their membership visiting the studio more frequently than they did before the Covid pandemic.

"We're trying to create communities and community for us is actually even more important than the actual workout," Gilchrist said. "We want people to have a third place to go. Obviously, they have home, work, and F45 is that spot where ... it's a sanctuary for people to turn up, and just have a fun 45 minutes of the day."

F45 Training agreed in June 2020 to merge with Crescent Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company, but later canceled the deal as the pandemic shut several of its studios.

— Reuters contributed to this report.