It’s one of New York City’s trendiest boutique gyms — and just opened a location in Tribeca — but the legal saga it’s entangled in just got messier.
A co-founder of Rumble and its public relations firm filed a defamation lawsuit Thursday against jilted Rumble partner Brian Ripka, who has two of his own pending actions against the gym. One of his cases seeks to confirm his equity position in the nascent brand.
The latest suit was filed by celebrity trainer and Rumble co-founder Noah Neiman, and by London Misher Public Relations and its CEO Shari Misher Stenzler, wife of Rumble co-founder Andrew Stenzler.
They allege that Ripka’s most recent lawsuit was brought “for the purpose of spreading false and damaging information” about them. They want $20 million in damages.
Ripka disputed the allegations.
“I’m a founder and an owner of Rumble, and finally the facts will fully expose the Stenzlers — Andrew and Shari — and Rumble for their unscrupulous business practices and I will win,” he said in an interview. “I’m looking forward to discovery and trial.”
The plaintiffs and their attorney did not respond to requests for comment.
Rumble is a boutique boxing-fitness chain boasting such celebrity investors as Justin Beiber and Sylvester Stallone. Six of its 12 U.S. locations are in New York City.
In 2017 Rumble opened its first spot, in Chelsea, and also signed a 10-year lease to take the entire five floors of an Upper East Side building for about $1 million a year, sources told The Real Deal at the time.
Rumble opened another training center in Chelsea earlier this year and in November it opened a gym at 142 West Street in Tribeca. It’s also planning to launch a gym in Chicago.
But the filing is just the latest jab in a string of lawsuits this year involving the chain, whose growth has reflected the rise of specialty gyms such as SoulCycle.
Ripka in May kicked off the legal battle by filing a case against Andrew Stenzler and others.
Ripka, a former CEO of a luxury jewelry company, owns a fitness chain called Ripped with locations on the Upper East Side and in Rye Brook, N.Y. His suit alleges that he is owed a 10 percent stake in Rumble in exchange for Stenzler coming to Ripped and learning about the specialty-gym business.
The case also noted that Stenzler has been involved in legal disputes in the past, pointing to two cases alleging that Stenzler took others’ fitness ideas for Rumble.
Stenzler and his co-defendants moved to dismiss Ripka’s case, which is still pending.
Stenzler fired back soon after with his own suit. He alleges that Ripka misappropriated trade secrets, after Ripka and Ripped in 2016 received confidential information from Rumble in anticipation of a 3 percent profit-participation swap between the companies, which at the time were new entrants to the gym scene.
Ripka has denied those allegations in court filings and moved to dismiss the case, which also remains active.
The legal battle escalated in October. Ripka filed a second lawsuit, this time a defamation case against Stenzler, Shari Misher Stenzler, London Misher and Rumble. The October case took the fraud allegations against Stenzler to a new level. It alleged that because of Stenzler’s reputation — his prior ventures, Cosi and Kidville, have faced allegations of fraud — Rumble and London Misher replaced him as the face of the brand with Neiman, who was on Bravo TV’s Work Out New York.
“[Neiman]’s not a co-founder. He never was and he never can be,” Ripka told TRD.
The case also alleges that Rumble is deceiving the public, particularly with its claim that celebrities frequent its gyms, and that the Stenzlers are using investor money for personal use.
That second charge is the focus of the complaint from London Misher, Shari Misher Stenzler and Neiman. They claim they should not have been targeted by Ripka because they are not involved in his business dispute with Andrew Stenzler and he is spreading false information.
In January, Bloomberg reported that Rumble was seeking $200 million in venture capital at a $500 million valuation. Rumble has also received backing from high-end gym Equinox, which is owned by Related Companies.
Landlords across the country increasingly are turning to gyms to fill vacant retail space. The number of fitness centers in the U.S. is expected to hit 120,700 by 2024, up from 111,055 this year, according to a third-quarter retail report from JLL. And memberships at niche gyms rose 7 percent over the past four years, compared with 5 percent for traditional gyms, the report showed.
Write to Mary Diduch at [email protected]