- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 9, 2002

Magic Johnson is bringing both Fatburgers and fitness to the Washington area.
Mr. Johnson, former Los Angeles Lakers superstar and now a businessman, with his development company, is getting ready to expand Fatburgers Corp., a chain of West Coast burger joints, to the Washington area in a year and is lining up locations for 24 Hour Fitness Magic Johnson Sports Clubs within the next six months.
The fast-food chain and fitness center are just two of several business ventures Mr. Johnson has planned for the Washington area.
Johnson Development Corp. has other partnerships with companies, including Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp., Starbucks Coffee Co. and T.G.I. Friday's. The company targets urban markets that tend to be underserved by big-name companies, said Mr. Johnson, whose given name is Earvin.
"We know urban markets better than anyone else," he said during an interview yesterday at the official opening of the Howard University Starbucks, his latest venture.
Last month, an investment group led by Mr. Johnson bought Fatburgers, a 50-year-old Los Angeles fast-food chain, which makes gourmet, made-to-order burgers. The company has spent the past year "stabilizing the operation," said Kenneth T. Lombard, president of Johnson Development
"We're about a year away really from rolling out the brand," Mr. Lombard said, adding that there is enough room in the Washington area for 40 to 60 restaurants.
Mr. Johnson's 24-hour fitness clubs are likely to find a spot in the area within the next six months, said Mr. Lombard, who would not disclose specific locations the company is considering.
Johnson Development teamed up with 24 Hour Fitness in 2001 and opened its first venture in Richmond, Calif. Mr. Johnson has opened three sports clubs since.
Mr. Johnson has had his eye on the Washington market since opening his first Starbucks in Hyattsville in March 2000. The Starbucks at Howard is his second area location.
Mr. Johnson said his company is seeking sites for his T.G.I. Friday's venture. He would not disclose specifics because leases have not been signed. He did say there will be "a couple in the area."
The market is still waiting for the multiscreen movie theater that was expected to open at the Capital Centre in Landover.
Johnson Development, which owns Magic Johnson Theatres with Loews, has been interested in the site for several years. Construction began late last month to transform the site into a 460,000-square-foot street-style retail and entertainment complex. Magic Johnson Theatres was supposed to be an anchor, but the deal was put on hold when Loews filed for bankruptcy protection. Loews stopped building locations as it reorganized.
Loews emerged from bankruptcy in March and talks have resumed, Mr. Johnson said.
"We are back in discussions, but there is still a lot of work to be done," Mr. Lombard said. "We're encouraged, but it's still way too early to tell if a deal" will be made.
Mr. Lombard says the Landover space is a "premier location."
Mr. Johnson says he is confident the deal will happen. He has a vision of a 12- to 18-screen theater, which could cost $7 million to $12 million.
"We have to decide businesswise what makes the most economic sense," he said.

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