Riley Sells Athletic Clubs to Stephens Inc. Interests

Pat Riley Jr., owner of four central Arkansas athletic clubs, on Monday announced that he had sold the clubs to an ownership group consisting of Stephens Inc. executives.

The change in ownership of the clubs — the Little Rock Athletic Club, Little Rock Racquet Club, North Little Rock Athletic Club and Downtown Athletic Club — became effective Monday.

The majority owner of the new entity, the Little Rock Athletic Centers, is Brad Eichler, an executive vice president at Stephens, Riley said in an emailed statement to club members. The ownership group also includes Stephens CEO Warren Stephens; Doug Martin, senior managing director at Stephens; Noel Strauss, managing director at Stephens; and Jackson Farrow, general counsel and managing director at Stephens.

Frank Lawrence is the CEO of the ownership group and will manage the clubs, Riley said. Lawrence founded and co-owns two CrossFit gyms in Little Rock, Riley said.

Riley, responding to a telephone call from Arkansas Business, declined to provide a purchase price, saying terms of the deal were confidential.

"Brad, Doug and Noel have been friends of mine for most of my life; we all grew up as competitive swimmers at the Little Rock Racquet Club," Riley's email said. "Doug's involvement is especially meaningful to me as his encouragement and belief in me was pivotal when I first floated the idea to create the LRAC almost thirty years ago."

He also noted that Eichler, Martin, Strauss and Lawrence had been long-time members of the Little Rock Athletic Centers/Little Rock Racquet Club.

Riley said the goal of the new owners "is to operate the Clubs in the same tradition and with the same service culture that exists now. To that end, their intention and desire is to maintain all of the fantastic staff that are currently in place."

Riley added that the new owners understood the importance of regular capital improvements at the clubs and that they planned to continue that practice.

"Last but not least, is the new owners' appreciation of these Clubs as a source of pride within the Little Rock/North Little Rock community," Riley said. "I believe that maintaining a local, active ownership is essential to carrying on the tradition of quality, service and reinvestment that you've come to expect."

Riley said that he would be at the clubs during the transition and that he planned to help train Lawrence and act as a consultant.