Strongput close to deal for $12 million infusion

December 11, 1993|By John E. Woodruff | John E. Woodruff,Staff Writer

Strongput Inc., the Owings Mills maker of much-publicized exercise weights, said yesterday it is involved in an intricate $100 million deal that will pump some $12 million into the small firm and may catapult its chief executive officer to the top of a British corporation that controls half-a-dozen other specialty companies.

E. David Gable, Strongput's president, said yesterday that negotiations for the deal are "essentially completed," though he has not yet decided whether to accept an offer that would also make him the head of the British firm Turbo City Corp.

The plan would make Strongput an affiliate of Turbo City. It would also make Turbo City and its British parent company, Grandname, Inc., subsidiaries of a Nasdaq-listed corporation.

Mr. Gable declined to name the Nasdaq-listed firm. But a participant in the negotiations said it is Members Service Inc. The company has interests that range from oil to telecommunications, but its operations thus far have been limited, according to Bloomberg Business News service. It closed yesterday at 84.375 cents a share, up 9.375 cents from Thursday.

The core of Strongput's business is a set of weights that resemble small bowling balls but have an opening for the entire ** hand to slip into a shaped chamber, which allows the weights to be picked up without using virtually any strength to grip them.

The device is potentially useful to injured persons for exercise therapy, to arthritic persons and to serious exercisers who want to focus their effort on targeted muscles, without wasting any to grip a barbell or a machine's handle.

It has received extensive praise in muscle-building and therapy publications, and the company says it has run highly successful market tests in conjunction with General Nutrition Centers, a 1,400-store chain.

The firm has patented the non grip exercise device and is working on patents for other applications.

Mr. Gable, who dropped out of high school to become a songwriter and later sold cars and managed car dealerships for more than a decade, became CEO of Strongput earlier this year at the urging of Scott Carruthers, Strongput's board chairman and the device's inventor. The two met while Mr. Carruthers was buying an automobile.

Mr. Gable confirmed that Turbo City has invited him to become its CEO. A source close to Strongput said he was offered a package worth about $10 million over several years to take the job.

"I haven't decided yet, but I don't see how I'll be able to do anything but take it," he said yesterday.

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