Greg Glassman, the embattled owner of CrossFit who was the subject of a recent article in The New York Times detailing routine sexual harassment of female employees, intends to sell the fitness brand to Eric Roza, according to a message sent to affiliate gym owners by the company’s chief executive, Dave Castro.
Mr. Roza is the former senior vice president and general manager of Oracle Data Cloud and is an owner of a CrossFit gym in Boulder, Colo.
He was previously the chief executive of Datalogix, a data company that was acquired by Oracle in 2015, and is also chairman of TrueCoach, a software company for personal trainers.
Mr. Roza began training in the CrossFit method in 2008, after he was sidelined by a running injury and discovered he has high cholesterol
Mr. Castro introduced Mr. Roza in his message to gym owners as “one of us” and someone who “also knows how to build great, inclusive workplaces.”
Mr. Castro had taken over as chief executive earlier this month after Mr. Glassman was excoriated for tweets and comments made in early June on a Zoom call about the death of George Floyd. Mr. Glassman stepped down at that point, but remained the sole owner.
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Several parties had been interested in purchasing the fitness company in turmoil, including Mr. Glassman’s ex-wife, Lauren Jenai, who founded CrossFit with him.
Ms. Jenai received $20 million from Mr. Glassman as part of their divorce settlement, in exchange for her ownership of the company. “I was approached by an investment company who wants to back me in buying CrossFit,” Ms. Jenai said in an interview last week. “In people’s minds, including mine, it would be a very elegant solution. I don’t want to see this thing go down the drain.”
But CrossFit representatives had accused Ms. Jenai — and those who spoke about the company’s toxic culture — of attempting to lessen the value of the brand. “There is a collective effort to devalue the company and buy it for scraps,” a spokeswoman said this weekend.
The spokeswoman said that she believed Ms. Jenai was working in cahoots with Andy Stumpf, a former Navy Seal with five Bronze Star medals and a Purple Heart who previously oversaw CrossFit, Inc.’s partnership with Reebok. He also served as Mr. Glassman’s pilot.
Both Ms. Jenai and Mr. Stumpf denied this. “I want nothing to do with CrossFit for the rest of my life,” Mr. Stumpf said, “and no amount of money and no position offered to me would change my position.”
Public scrutiny of the company’s culture intensified on June 12, when Mr. Stumpf, now a speaker on leadership, devoted an entire episode of his podcast, “Cleared Hot,” to what he saw while working for CrossFit, Inc. from 2010 to 2014.
“I cannot count the number of times that derogatory and specifically sexual comments were made about female staff members directly in my presence,” Mr. Stumpf said, urging Mr. Glassman and the company to release former employees from nondisclosure agreements
Now headquartered in Scotts Valley, Calif., CrossFit was created in 2000. It is privately held and currently employs 72 people full-time, down from 137 two years ago. The company made its name with a rigorous exercise method, now taught in thousands of mom-and-pop gyms around the country that have licensed the CrossFit trademark. For some of its devotees, CrossFit is a near-religion.
“There is so much positive in the CrossFit community,” said one female former employee who, like many others interviewed, was granted anonymity because she fears legal retribution from Mr. Glassman. “CrossFit is not just about fitness. It becomes your friends, your family, your community. People create their entire lives around it.”
But interviews with eight former employees, and four CrossFit athletes with strong ties to the company, revealed a management culture rife with overt and vulgar talk about women: their bodies, how much male employees, primarily Mr. Glassman, would like to have sex with them and how lucky the women should feel to have his rabid interest.
According to the dozen interviewed, Mr. Glassman, 63, has verbally demeaned women, pulled at their clothes to try to peek at their cleavage and aimed his phone’s camera to snap photos of their breasts while they traveled with him for work (sometimes pressuring them to consider sharing hotel rooms or borrowed houses with him).
Through a company spokesman and spokeswoman, Mr. Glassman denied such conduct. The spokeswoman said Mr. Glassman has treated her only respectfully.
The former employees say reporting the harassment was not an option. Mr. Glassman was the sole owner of CrossFit, Inc. Perhaps the most powerful female executive there, Kathy Glassman, the affiliate director, is Mr. Glassman’s sister, and they were reluctant to complain to her. There was no human resources manager until 2013. That manager left the company in January and has not been replaced.
“There was a constant narrative about women,” the former corporate employee said. She described Mr. Glassman using vulgarities frequently to refer to women, enumerating which he wanted to have sex with and which he wouldn’t. He “was always descriptive in nature about it,” she said, “bragging about sexual escapades.”
This attitude was so entwined with operations that the Wi-Fi password at a company office in San Diego used to be a sexist obscenity, according to three former employees.
In 2012, Mr. Glassman agreed to pay a financial settlement to Julie Kelly, a former employee whose lawyers threatened to file a sexual harassment lawsuit, according to three people in the CrossFit community with direct knowledge of the situation. Among other incidents, they related, during a company get-together at a bar, Mr. Glassman stood next to Ms. Kelly and made a vulgar and obscene comment about her to another man. (Mr. Glassman denies this, the spokeswoman said, and would not comment on the settlement.)
Ms. Kelly declined an interview request.
In recent months, a shift in the company’s focus from competitive games to health initiatives, and the pandemic, resulted in layoffs. Most departing workers received severance only if they signed nondisclosure agreements.
At the beginning of 2020, there were more than 14,000 affiliate gyms, according to Justin LoFranco, founder of Morning Chalk Up, a newsletter that covers the CrossFit community. Affiliated gyms pay CrossFit, Inc. an annual fee of $3,000 or less.
The company has also drawn revenue from the CrossFit Games and sponsorships, like one from Reebok, which was valued at about $100 million over the last 10 years.
By the time the deal with Reebok was struck in 2010, CrossFit, Inc. already had a reputation.
Lindsey Johnson, a CrossFit athlete hired by Reebok to train its executives, turned down an opportunity to do additional work for CrossFit, Inc.
“I had heard too many stories about too many things I didn’t want to be a part of,” Ms. Johnson said, including “straight-up bullying and sexual harassment of women. We’ve heard this story before, this isn’t a brand-new situation, someone at the top with a God complex.”