Fitness Industry Mourns Passing of Stephen Tharrett

Stephen Tharrett, co-founder of ClubIntel, president of Club Industry Consulting, author and a past president of IHRSA, died on Dec. 22.

He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Denise, and his children Travis and Alyssa.

Tharrett died unexpectedly, according to his business partner, Mark Williamson.

Williamson shared with Club Industry this tribute to Tharrett: "For more than 30 years, I had the privilege to know Steve, learn from him, and call him my business partner and friend. Steve's commitment to the fitness industry through the years was truly extraordinary. It was my honor to have worked beside him for much of my career, starting at ClubCorp in the 1980s and continuing to ClubIntel, which we cofounded in 2012. We shared the common values of serving customers and clients and building relationships. During the course of our partnership, I witnessed first-hand his discipline, focus, and incredible attention to detail.

"Steve was in many ways the historian of our industry. His unsurpassed reach and influence within the industry will be marked not only by the wisdom he imparted to everyone he encountered, but also by the lifelong relationships he nurtured throughout his career and life. He touched my life beyond words, for which I will be forever grateful. Along with many others, I mourn his passing."

Details on a memorial service are not yet available. A post on his LinkedIn page asked that people share any words, photos, audio or video for a forthcoming memorial video by emailing [email protected]

Tharrett had more than 30 years of experience in the fitness industry. He authored several books for the health and fitness industry, including “Legends of the Trade: A History of the Artisans, Influencers and Innovators of Fitness,” “Fitness Management,” “101 Programming Strategies for Engaging Members in the Health/Fitness Clubs,” “The Health/Fitness Operator’s Guide to Recruiting and Retaining Great Employees,” and “ACE’s Fitness and Business Forms Handbook.” He was co-editor of the second, third and fourth editions of “ACSM’s Health and Fitness Facility Standards and Guidelines.”

As co-founder of ClubIntel, Tharrett offered market research for the fitness industry. He also was president of Club Industry Consulting, which he started in 2005, offering strategic planning, new business development, brand insight work and culture development.

From 2008 to 2010, Tharrett served as CEO of Russian Fitness Group, which owned and operated 48 clubs under the brands World Class and Fizkult. Prior to that, he served as senior vice president at ClubCorp for 17 years.  

Tharrett also served for a year as president of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association from July 1996 to June 1997.

Long-time friend Rick Caro, president of consulting firm Management Vision, said: “His colleagues referred to him as a great industry leader, an industry legend, someone who truly gave back to the industry, someone respected by all, an unassuming researcher and industry historian, a deep thinker who only wanted the industry to be more included in people's lives and respected by all and a committed presenter of well-researched information—often uniquely collected—and then shared with all."

Another industry friend, Bill McBride, CEO of Active Wellness, wrote on Tharrett’s Facebook page: “I have known and cared about Stephen Tharrett for more years than I can remember. Steve was a wonderful man, a great friend and someone that connected others. … Steve had a brilliant mind and with his partner Mark Williamson created a lot of credibility in our industry through data analytics. Steve was an industry icon and true friend.”