Hamish Fletcher

Business reporter for the NZ Herald

Gym stoush gets urgent High Court hearing

Club Physical in Te Atatu. A legal battle over the rebranding of three Club Physical gyms will have its first call in the High Court. Photo / Michelle Hyslop
Club Physical in Te Atatu. A legal battle over the rebranding of three Club Physical gyms will have its first call in the High Court. Photo / Michelle Hyslop

A High Court judge has directed that a stoush between the owner of a well-known gym chain and one of his franchisees who suddenly rebranded three clubs have an "urgent" half-day hearing next week.

Club Physical was running nine branches across Auckland and one in Kaitaia until 12 days ago when clubs at Westgate, Three Kings and Botany were completely overhauled and renamed as "Jolt Fitness".

Staff at those locations were fitted with new uniforms, new classes were put in place, and instructors arriving up to take their regular classes were turned away.

Many members were left baffled and angry that the gym they signed up for no longer existed.

Stuart Holder, who owned the three branches under a franchise agreement, said he rebranded the clubs to ensure their survival.

Club Physical owner Paul Richards alleged Holder had breached franchise agreements that had "years to run on them".

Late last week, Richards entered an application to the High Court seeking an injunction to block Jolt Fitness from trading.

Lawyers for both sides appeared today to discuss the application before Justice Rebecca Ellis, who directed an urgent, half-day fixture be scheduled in next week for the case.

Richard Beddie, head of Fitness NZ, last week issued a general letter stating the importance of gym franchises honouring their contracts.

"We believe allowing franchise operators to break franchise agreements without due regard for contract law would be both without precedent, and more significantly, damaging for our industry."

Beddie said he has not seen the contract between Club Physical and Jolt Fitness, and therefore could not say whether it had been breached, but his main concern was for affected gym members.

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