Who Owns Massage Envy? Details on Spa Franchisor Amid Allegations

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Sep. 21 2021, Published 2:16 p.m. ET

Content warning: This article covers allegations of sexual assault.

As the Atlanta-based private equity firm that owns Massage Envy, Roark Capital Group published a plan in 2017 to address the allegations of sexual assaults at Massage Envy spas nationwide, as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time.

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However, the allegations are still coming nearly four years later. Earlier this month, The Oregonian reported that a city council member in Forest Grove, Ore., was suing Massage Envy over an alleged sexual assault in July 2020. Three days later, the Nashville Tennesseean reported that police in Nashville had arrested a former Massage Envy employee in connection with the rape of a client in March 2020.

Here’s more information on Massage Envy, Roark, and the sexual assault allegations.

Roark Capital Group acquired Massage Envy in 2012.

In October 2012, Roark announced its acquisition of Massage Envy. Roark's portfolio already included Arby’s, Auntie Anne’s, Carvel Ice Cream, Cinnabon, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Wingstop, and other chains.

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“We are thrilled to have Roark as a partner as we continue to grow the Massage Envy brand,” Dave Crisalli, then president and CEO of Massage Envy, said in a press release. “Roark’s strong operational approach and deep consumer and franchise experience makes them an ideal partner for our leadership team, regional developers, franchisees, and team members.”

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Ezra Field, then managing director of Roark, added, “Massage Envy has become a category-defining consumer wellness brand. We are very excited to partner with Dave and his team to help build on the company’s strong success.”

More than 180 people reported sexual assaults at Massage Envy by 2017.

In November 2017, BuzzFeed News reported that more than 180 people had filed sexual assault lawsuits, police reports, and state board complaints against Massage Envy, its spas, and its employees. Many people said that their allegations were ignored or mishandled.

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Melanie Hansen, then general counsel of Massage Envy Franchising and now a senior legal expert for the company, said that the company tried to create the industry’s “most stringent, rigorous policies” for the hiring, screening, and training therapists. “We hold franchise owners accountable to our policies and, when we say nothing is more important to us than treating clients with respect and giving them a safe, professional experience, we mean it,” she added.

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Roark and Massage Envy issued a safety plan that year.

A week after the BuzzFeed News report, Massage Envy published “A Commitment to Safety,” saying the “heartbreaking stories of sexual assault suffered in Massage Envy franchise locations caused us to take a hard look at our business and at how we protect the members and guests who have placed their trust in the brand.”

The company laid out a six-point plan—issued by Roark, according to the Journal-Constitution—that would be “rolled out and implemented across the network over the coming weeks.” The plan included a partnership with the anti-sexual violence organization RAINN, annual background screening for all massage therapists, and new rules about the reporting of sexual assault allegations. That plan has since been updated and expanded into Massage Envy’s Commitment to Safety Program.

If you need support, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or visit RAINN.org​ to chat online one-on-one with a support specialist at any time.

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