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Gym owner in 'vanishing act'.

Byline: ANNABLACKABY

Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of a Halesowen businessman who left behind a string of unpaid suppliers and unhappy clients following the closure of the gym he opened to much fanfare earlier this year.

Professional trainer Gary Wilkes opened the Unique Physique gym in the town in January, launching the fitness club with a big publicity drive after enlisting the help of several local companies who agreed to offer cut-price services to help the gym get up and running.

But now, many of the suppliers who chipped in to help have been left out of pocket and several members have com-plainethat their accounts are still being billed for membership despite bailiffs being called to the gym earlier this month.

David Page, of Halesowen health and safety product suppliers Safety Surplus, said his firm was owed pounds 193 by Unique Physique but added he did not hold out much hope of ever recovering the money.

He said: "We sent in a CCJ and somebody went round and said the letters were all lined up on the counter unopened."

Local printing firm Tulleys, which agreed to invoice Unique Physique Midlands for tiny amounts while it got up and running, also said it was owed money by the firm.

Meanwhile, disgruntled gym members have registered their anger on the firm's Facebook page about money being taken from their accounts despite the closure of the gym.

Mr Wilkes was also involved in organising a music festival, which was supposed to be headlined by boyband singer Simon Webbe and was scheduled to take place in Halesowen on May 23.

However, the event did not go ahead after Mr Wilkes failed to get a licence in time.

The event had been billed as a fundraiser for Halesowen in Bloom and to pay for the town's Christmas lights, with Mr Wilkes saying he aimed to raise pounds 38,000 to say "thank you" to the community who helped launch his gym business.

He was also planning a charity football match between locals and the first-team stars and past players from Halesowen Town FC.

Unique Physique Midlands occupied a redundant performance arts school in Halesowen and was equipped with topend equipment, including 100 per cent resistance cross-trainers, treadmills with built-in LCD screens, a spin studio with virtual-reality moving scenery and a Nintendo Wii-fit pod.

Mr Wilkes originally set up the firm with his business partner Sophie Munslow, who resigned in June according to documents filed at Companies House.

The two business partners, who both overcame personal weight battles themselves, launched the gym at an event attended by the companies as well as local celebrity Dave Heeley, the blind marathon runner.

BMW also provided an M3 for the launch and Aston Martin supplied a vehicle for a high-impact unveiling.

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Gary Wilkes of Unique Physique
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 18, 2009
Words:468
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