How MaxiMuscle’s founder is getting back on the bike

Picture copyright GarySarre/MADMAX Race Team
Picture caption Zef Eisenberg is a motorbike fanatic

Zef Eisenberg, motor-cycle speed record breaker, and the entrepreneur behind the sports nutrition brand MaxiMuscle, desires to come back to the brand he set.

This time last year Zef Eisenberg lay in hospital following operations to match three ceramic bolts in his ankles, a titanium hip, and plates in shoulder joint, his collar bone and pelvis.

Medical opinion was he would be blessed to walk again, let alone get back to the turbine-powered motorbike that he’d just crashed at over 200mph at a high-speed race.

But the 44-year-old UK entrepreneur and bicycle fanatic had a plan in place.

As creator of the sports supplements supplements business, which turned into a multi-million dollar success story over ten decades ago, he was convinced he could eat and train himself back to health.

So Zef adopted a diet of fruit, vegetables and protein powder, and started exercising the parts of him that were portable. When one of his relatives turned up with a box of chocolates and sympathy, he didn’t eat one chocolate.

Picture copyright MADMAX Race Team
Picture caption Zef broke 11 bones, temporarily lost his sight, and spent three months in hospital following his crash at 2016

One thing he didn’t have to be concerned about was his business would put on without him. MaxiMuscle, which he offered in 2011 to pharmaceutical GSK is no longer included by that business. However, MaxiCorp, his new partnershipthat has a property arm along with a engineering and racing arm, continued to operate just like a machine.

“We had a disaster recovery plan covering each and every part of the business,” he says.

Every member of the team had a project to do: one brought the damaged bike, one dealt with the insurance firms, an engineer had been tasked with sourcing options to hospital food for Mr Eisenberg, along with the paperwork was in place to guarantee staff wages were still paid on time.

“Everything worked just like clockwork,” he says proudly. “I am a realist about what can go wrong and that I plan all of my businesses that way.”

“I feel that is why I’ve continued to be prosperous. Not because I am a genius, not because I’ve got any telepathic foresight, but just because I am always taking a look at the negative sides as well as the positive.”

The want “to always pay your buttocks”, he thinks, stems from the abrupt insecurity he felt seeing his parents divorce when he was just seven, leaving the household strapped for cash.

He had several jobs as a teen in north London and left school taking work in a health food shop, so he would get a discount supplements to help nourish his passions: aggressive bodybuilding and Pilates.

In addition, he spent hours at the British Medical Library attempting to determine the science behind sports nutrition, keen to move beyond the myths and exaggerated marketing claims he says were common in the moment.

Picture copyright Zef Eisenberg
Picture caption The MaxiMuscle brand climbed quickly as gym culture became more mainstream

Aged 18, he started publishing monthly newsletters and a book sharing his new-found expertise, and supplying bodybuilders with protein nutritional supplements. The product range evolved to MaxiMuscle, and slowly enlarged into edible gels and protein bars from drink powders.

The growing trend for bodybuilding pumped up the business at a quick speed. By 2010, 15 years later it had been set up, & pound; 80m worth of goods per year was being sold by it.

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But it had been Zef’s choice to have all of MaxiMuscle’s merchandise screened beneath World Anti-Doping Agency principles that set the brand apart.

That move, says Libby Gibson, a partner at private equity firm Piper, was “essential to ensuring customers felt 100% reassured that products were safe to carry”.

It had been another means to earn sports nutrition seem okay as “a normal part of people’s regular fitness routines”, she adds.

By 2004 Zef had decided he wanted to take some money. He had been worried about new health food regulations that might hurt the small business. “It felt sensible to take some chips off the table to reduce danger,” he says.

Piper came in as an equity associate. Ms Gibson who worked closely together with Zef describes him as imaginative, lively, inspirational, and “prepared to take calculated risks”.

Picture caption Maximuscle is now possessed by pharma giant GSK

Another stake was offered by him to Darwin Private Capital in 2007, then in 2011 relinquished possession of MaxiMuscle altogether.

The pharmaceutical giant GSK had made him an offer “he couldn’t refuse” of £162m.

Zef remained on in an advisory capacity for four decades but he was ready to move on to new challenges, he says.

He toyed with the idea of opening a chain of gyms but decided the market was already saturated and focused instead on his already successful real estate site, which has bought and sold possessions worth around £210m at London, the Channel Islands and Gibraltar.

In addition, he established Maxicorp Autosports, a four-strong team of engineers at Guernsey building bespoke vehicles for customers prepared to cover £250,000 and £1m. The company does not create a profit but it enables him to pursue his passion. He holds the world record onto a turbine bike.

Picture copyright Getty Images
Picture caption The Expanding gym culture has helped boost demand for sports nutrition products

Now MaxiMuscle has been set by GSK back up available since its portfolio slims down. And Zef is to buy back.

“For the new to continue to function as best it can be, it needs to be led by a more nimble entrepreneurial-type mindset that has direct links with the industry and the customer,” he says.

In the years since the sale digit expansion has been seen by the supplements industry. However, it has changed.

“There is an increasing demand,” says Carolina Ordonez, head of customer health at market research firm Euromonitor. “However, there is also a lot of competition.”

Picture copyright Becci Ellis
Picture caption Zef Eisenberg is now back on his bike, aiming to break new speed records

If Zef would be to triumph with MaxiMuscle a second time around, she says he’ll need an army of social media “influencers” to achieve the goods’ specific target industry.

She suggests he present vegetable-based protein goods, since increasing numbers of customers are avoiding dairy. And looking further ahead, she thinks the current focus on protein tends to fade in favour of trends.

If he does return into the driving seat at Maximuscle there will be lots of challenges, then.

He’s enjoying being back on the bicycle. After the injury he made another attempt to violate his own record. He didn’t handle it – but he says he’s inclined to continue trying.

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