Alchemy Is Forced out of Swiss Chain

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Byline: Caroline Meehan

Alchemy Partners has wiped Silhouette, a Swiss health and fitness chain, from its books after it collapsed last week.The UK buy-out firm invested a majority stake in Silhouette in 1999, then worth Sfr18m ([euro]12m), with the intention of turning it around.

The chain was sold last week through the bankruptcy court for a small amount. It had 12 fitness centres, 15,000 customers in Switzerland and 240 employees.

A source familiar with the company says although the gyms were profitable, there were "ridiculous costs for central administration and a huge headquarters, fit for 40 clubs". He says the company could have been successfully turned around but Alchemy, one of several shareholders, was unable to influence its management.

Marcel Meinhardt, a mergers and acquisitions lawyer from Lenz & Staehelin, a Swiss law firm, says: "Shareholders in Switzerland don't have many rights to influence strategic and operative decisions - it's the board of directors that runs the company. …