Job fears holds up gym stoush resolution

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Club Physical gym members turned out two weeks ago to protest outside the Jolt Fitness branch in Westgate. Photo / Supplied
Club Physical gym members turned out two weeks ago to protest outside the Jolt Fitness branch in Westgate. Photo / Supplied

An Auckland gym owner who was ordered to shut down his gyms by early next week is concerned for his staff and may ask the High Court for a delay, says his lawyer.

Stuart Holder owned three Club Physical franchises until he suddenly rebranded them as "Jolt Fitness" last month, without any warning to staff or gym members.

High Court Judge Helen Winkelmann ruled Holder breached his franchise agreements with Club Physical owner Paul Richards.

She granted an injunction requiring Holder to close the three gyms - in Three Kings, Botany and Westgate - but gave him until Monday 18 March at 5pm.

Holder and Richards have this week been locked in negotiations, trying to reach an agreement which would lead to Club Physical taking over the breakaway branches.

With the Monday deadline looming, issues around lease agreements, staffing and equipment have still not been sorted out, said Holder's solicitor Stewart Germann.

Germann, who said he was "flabbergasted" when the injunction was awarded, said it now looked likely Jolt Fitness would ask the High Court for an extension to keep trading.

"The stay of order runs out on Monday at 5pm but if the leases aren't sorted out we'll apply for an extension.

"I don't think we're going to make the deadline so we (Jolt and Club Physical) should agree to extend by a week."

Richards had been meeting with the landlords of all three premises to negotiate taking over the lease agreements and reinstating them as Club Physical gyms.

Holder was concerned that if that was not taken care of by Monday, closing the gyms would leave staff out of their jobs, Germann said.

"Our biggest priority is ensuring that the interests of both our staff and members will be looked after."

Richards had been holding interviews for about 30 positions at the three gyms and existing staff - many whom were Club Physical staff before the brand change - were being interviewed too.

Richards said he wanted to give the current Jolt Fitness staff a shot at the positions but needed to know he had their support.

"This is a relationship business and we want to know those people have got a heart for what we're doing."

Holder wanted Richards to employ all of the existing staff, Germann said.

Richards also intends to reinstate 19 trainers - who ran classes like zumba, pilates and yoga - who lost their jobs in the February 8 rebrand.

Once the leases and staff were taken care of, the final step would be to look at selling the assets and equipment to Richards, Germann said.

The two parties would value the assets and try to reach an agreement on pricing.

"We're cooperating fully with Mr Richards so we're trying to box on and make this work," he said.

Holders' future plans were unknown at this stage but restraints of trade imposed by Justice Winkelmann could limit his ability to open another health and fitness business in the three areas.

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