Edgard Corona, the brilliant mind behind Smart Fit, has emerged as a key player in the fitness industry, redefining the concept of health and well-being across Latin America. As the CEO and founder of Bio Ritmo, one of Brazil’s leading sports activity companies, Corona has also earned recognition as a trailblazer in sports business management.
In 1996, Corona established the first Bio Ritmo gym in Santo Amaro, a neighborhood in São Paulo, with a single unit and minimal knowledge of the fitness sector. Since then, he has held the reins as the CEO, steering the group towards unprecedented success. While Corona initially pursued a degree in Chemical Engineering at FAAP, his life took an unexpected turn when he faced challenges in his family’s sugar and alcohol mill. It was then that he decided to chase a long-cherished dream—to create a swimming academy. Over the years, the academy expanded and evolved into a full-fledged fitness center, setting the stage for the group’s future expansion.
However, it was the introduction of the “low-cost” concept that truly catapulted Corona to greater heights. In 2009, the visionary entrepreneur launched Smart Fit, which quickly gained widespread popularity, boasting over 360 branches across Latin America and establishing itself as the largest gym network in the region. BM&C has carefully analyzed key milestones in Edgard Corona’s journey to becoming the newest Brazilian billionaire after the IPO.
His Journey in the Industry:
Edgard Corona inherited a nearly bankrupt sugar cane mill in the mid-1990s. Employing sound business management practices, he transformed the company into the 13th largest producer in Brazil. However, a shareholder issue forced him to step away from the company, marking the end of his career as a sugar mill owner. Undeterred by the setbacks, Corona shifted his focus to a small family-owned swimming academy—an area closely connected to his passion for swimming. He aimed to turn the academy into a thriving business. Listening to business experts’ advice, he incorporated swimming pools and circuit training spaces into the academy’s offerings. During a trip to the United States, he encountered a consultant who introduced him to the concept of “metanoia,” a hierarchical management approach that encourages employee participation for more significant results. Embracing the idea, Corona tested and applied it to his business.
Absorbing insights from various market experts, Corona attended a congress of fitness academies in the US in 2003. The event exposed him to different perspectives on the industry, including concerns about the potential dominance of large players over smaller businesses. This wealth of knowledge, to varying degrees, contributed to the foundation of Smart Fit—a democratic gym model that standardized its facilities, offering two or three layout patterns with motivational lighting. Affordable pricing (R$49) allowed both employers and employees to utilize the same space, revolutionizing fitness in Brazil.
Fortune Surges in IPO Debut:
On Tuesday, Smart Fit’s shares (SMFT3) soared by 34.78% during its debut on the B3 (Brazilian stock exchange), closing at R$ 31.00 per share. The IPO raised a staggering R$ 2.3 billion, boosting Edgard Corona’s fortune to approximately R$ 1.6 billion, according to Forbes’ estimates. Considering the Corona family’s other shareholdings, their combined stake is valued at R$ 2 billion. Though not selling any shares in the IPO, the family’s stake will be diluted due to the issuance of new shares. After the offer, their ownership in SmartFit may decrease to 14.85% if an additional lot of R$ 345 million in shares is sold.
The IPO has been a part of Smart Fit’s plans since December 2018 when the company expressed interest in listing on the Novo Mercado, a segment with the strictest corporate governance rules on the B3. In the same year, the company deferred the offering to seek a better valuation in the future. The billions raised from the offering will be utilized to fuel organic growth and acquisitions, according to documents submitted to the Brazilian Securities Commission (CVM).