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Out-of-pocket gym punters fume as Stallone lookalike enjoys high life; EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: Emma McKinney

Muscleman: Rob Blakeman is pictured on holiday in Dubai with girlfriend Nadia Bailey and mixing with celebrities, including former world champ Mike Tyson and Brum's own Ozzy Osbourne.

CELEBRITY personal trainer and Sly Stallone lookalike Rob Blakeman suns himself in the sea in Dubai.

Yet back in the UK, consumer watchdogs are probing claims the businessman - who boasts Mike Tyson and Ricky Hatton among his clients - has left his Midland customers out of pocket after shutting some of his gyms.

A Birmingham Mail investigation has also revealed Mr Blakeman appears to have left a trail of debt behind him which has led to court action.

In the recently-posted Facebook pictures, the muscleman can also be seen posing with girlfriend and business partner Nadia Bailey in front of Dubai's Burj Al Arab Hotel.

The hotel is dubbed the most luxurious in the world, offering guests personal butlers and a fleet of Rolls-Royces.

Other photos show Mr Blakeman having dinner in an opulent gold dining room.

But the snaps have angered consumers who claim they paid hundreds of pounds for membership of his BodyZone gyms in Chester Road, Wylde Green, and Bridge Street, Walsall, only to find both have been closed for more than two months.

Chiefs at Birmingham Trading Standards say they are now investigating Mr Blakeman.

A spokeswoman said: "We have received a complaint that the gym in Wylde Green has closed and as a result a customer has been left suffering financial losses.

"We are investigating these claims fully and are attempting to make contact with Mr Blakeman to ask him to pay back the money."

One customer, who does not wish to be named, said she paid pounds 530 for six months of one-to-one training sessions at the Wylde Green gym last October.

"A week later I was told the gym was closing for refurbishment, but I could carry on training at the gym in Walsall," she said.

"I trained in Walsall for about eight weeks but then I turned up one day in early December last year to find it closed.

"I called and a message said it was closing 'due to unforeseen circumstances' and would re-open in January, but it hasn't opened since and when I call the number it goes to a dead line.

"I've seen pictures on Facebook of Rob Blakeman living it up in Dubai, which makes me very angry when I'm left out of pocket."

Mahroof Hussain, aged 35, of Moseley, said he paid Body-Zone in Walsall pounds 690 for sixmonth's worth of personal training sessions last October.

He said: "It was going well, but then less than two months into the contract I turned up for a session and the gym was closed.

"There was no note on the door or anything to indicate why it was closed."

He said he also tried calling the gym, without response.

The father-of-four said his sister, 28-year-old Shamida Elahi, had also signed up to the gym around the same time - also paying pounds 690.

"Eventually she got a text saying the gym would open under new management on February 13," added Mr Hussain, a taxi call centre operator.

"But we're concerned that won't happen."

In an emailed statement to the Mail, Mr Blakeman said: "The contract a BodyZone member signs states clearly in the terms and conditions that a gym may close for any given reason but an alternative will always be available.

"Bearwood and Oldbury branches of BodyZone were offered to all members during Walsall refit, as according to contracts."

However, the Bearwood and Oldbury gyms are franchises and are not owned by Mr Blakeman.

Indy Sanghera, who bought the Bearwood franchise off Mr Blakeman 18 months ago, said: "We pay Rob royalties for our clients but we are a limited company and run completely independently of him.

"We are under no obligation to take on customers from his other gyms, although we would be happy to do so if Rob transferred their outstanding membership fees to us.

"We have tried to contact Rob about this but we have not had any response."

A spokeswoman for the Oldbury franchise said she would also not take on any clients from either Wylde Green or Walsall.

Former employee Tim Cox worked for Mr Blakeman at several of his gyms between 2001 and 2009. But he says he quit after he was not paid for four months.

Mr Cox took the gym boss and BodyZone (UK) Ltd to Birmingham Employment Tribunal and was awarded pounds 11,500 in compensation.

"I still haven't received a penny, despite the case going all the way to the High Court to try and force Rob to payup," said Mr Cox, who now lives in Norwich.

"The stress I have gone through has been phenomenal.

I was really close to having a nervous breakdown.'' A credit check has revealed two outstanding Northampton County Court judgments totalling pounds 1,060 in Mr Blakeman's name and former address in Erdington.

When the Mail visited the property, a woman living there claimed she had bought the detached bungalow two years ago.

"I wish we never bought the house," she said.

"It's being a living hell for the last two years as we've been plagued by bailiffs constantly demanding money for Rob Blakeman's unpaid debts.

"We are scared to death every time the door bell goes in case it's another bailiff."

She said bailiffs called at the house as recently as three weeks ago, claiming Mr Blakeman owed around pounds 300 for an outstanding BT phone bill.

And a Birmingham PR firm, which did not wish to be named, said Mr Blakeman owes the company almost pounds 1,000 for work it did in 2006 to promote Famous Squiggles.

The Mail visited BodyZone in Wylde Green, where builders were on site clearing out the property.

A spokesman for letting agent Burley Browne said it was looking for a new tenant for the property.

"As far as we're concerned BodyZone has now closed and will not be re-opening," she added.

Meanwhile, gym equipment, believed to be owned by Mr Blakeman has gone on sale on auction website eBay.

Five pieces of weight-lifting equipment, ranging from pounds 50 to pounds 576, are being sold.

Descriptions of the items include an email address for Slim To Win Ltd, which is the same email used by Mr Blakeman to make his earlier statement to the Mail.

The descriptions also state that the seller would accept cash only for the items, and they would have to collect them from an undisclosed address in Birmingham on February 12.

Mr Blakeman was unavailable for comment last night.

Tyson threatened to sue SIX years ago former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson threatened to sue Rob Blakeman, claiming that the gym boss was cashing in on his name.

The two had met and completed a few exercises together for TV cameras during a publicity event in the city in 2006.

The ex-world champ said Mr Blakeman had since exploited him, claiming he was his personal fitness trainer, and threatened legal action if Mr Blakeman continued to publicise their meeting.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Feb 9, 2012
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