I have been in employee of Premier fitness for the last 15 years. Premier Fitness expanded into Hamilton and bought my former club in 1998. I first met John Cardillo back then when he was supervising his team that totally revamped the club. Premier Fitness invested millions of dollars into this facility in order to renovate it and bring in all brand new equipment. The takeover by Premier saved my gym from closing down and saved 20 jobs from being lost. I attended Premier’s head office for monthly meetings throughout the 15 years of my employment with Premier. John Cardillo ran a majority of those meetings and I always looked forward to attending. He was a true visionary and a true business professional. I continued working for Premier fitness right up until the company was sold to Physiomed.
During the last three years of my employment with Premier we did not see much of John Cardillo. Rumor in the company was that he was fighting health problems and was no longer attending meetings at the head office or visiting any of the clubs.
We employees all felt uneasy not seeing our leader at work. It was sort of sad, the spirit of the company certainly dampened. When we found out last December that the company was being sold to Physiomed we were skeptical but hopeful that the new owners would be as committed to running the company as John was. Myself and all of our company employees attended the Physiomed Fitness launch meeting in Mississauga after the December take over by Physiomed was officially announced. Dr. Scott Wilson and Al Guarino took the stage and spoke to more than 1000 of us employees. Assuring us that Physiomed was committed to the acquisition and that our jobs were safe. Wilson said that his organization had scrutinized the process thoroughly and was proud of the acquisition. Within days, before Christmas our Premier Fitness Club Signs came down and the new Physiomed Fitness signs went up. We were all handed new uniforms to wear and started conducting business and selling memberships as Physiomed Fitness. Since Al Guarino was the new CFO of Physiomed Fitness, I had a bit of assurance that our club would continue to operate as usual because he had been the CFO of Premier fitness for more than 10 years and John Cardillo‘s right hand man.
The first sign of problems started In the latter part of January when our paychecks did not arrive at the club. Myself and my employee started getting concerned. We called Physiomed head office to find out why we were not being paid and we were given some excuses that the cheques were delayed due to a system glitch. From the time Physiomed took over my club all the monies for memberships that were sold were in the name of Physiomed Fitness. They received all my clubs income. By the end of January no pay cheques had arrived. Even though they received all of this income, we were not getting our pay cheques.
In early February we knew something was wrong as no one was answering the phone at the Physiomed offices. And Al Guarino was not returning phone calls. No one had been paid for over a month by Physiomed. Then we hear in the news that Physiomed was trying to say that that they had not bought the clubs and the chain was going to be put into receivership. This was a shock to all of us as we considered ourselves Physiomed employees. Staff members started quitting and finding other jobs as they did not have any money to pay their bills. I decided to stick it out because I was committed to my job and my members. I was trying to figure out what was going to happen to my club and my career.
Then I heard that John Cardillo and Neil Proctor were very upset at what Physiomed and Scott Wilson were trying to do by the receivership. They were trying to cherry pick the best clubs and close down the clubs they did not want. Apparently the only way they could do that was through this legal finagling. I sat in my club keeping the doors open and trying to appease my members for all of February, meanwhile I was disgusted by the newspaper articles that were coming out quoting Scott Wilson that he didn’t buy Premier fitness. I could not believe that these quotes came out of the same person who stood up in front of 1000 of my fellow employees in December in the Mississauga launch meeting with Al Guarino at his side proclaiming that they were the new owners of all of our clubs and now he was putting out such untruthful quotes.
John Cardillo fought against the receivership. Based on the Judges decision of ordering a 30 day standstill and not a full receivership, it’s obvious that the judge was concerned that Physiomed was trying to pull a fast one on John and on the clubs. Since this happened Physiomed ran away proclaiming no responsibility for our employees wages.
I understand that John Cardillo and Neil Proctor made a deal with my former manager to buy the club. This saved our jobs and four thousand of my members did not lose their memberships. We were also asked to submit a list of payrolls that Physiomed had not paid us, which have now been paid to us. I understand that as a condition of the sale of my club to the new operator, John arranged for the new operator to pay our back waages which had not been paid by Physiomed during the time they owned my club.
On behalf of my fellow employees I want to thank Neil Proctor and John Cardillo for their efforts in resolving this Physiomed mess. Although the staff is is a lot smaller than it used to be, we are still delivering quality service to our members and are happy to be at work every day.