Duncan Bannatyne slams his own gym clients in ‘Ratner moment’

 

The Scottish entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne has taken the unusual step of criticising the clients of his own gym business empire, saying he is unhappy with the kind of people using the chain after he decided to drop the membership prices.

The tough-talking star of Dragons’ Den, who owns the country’s largest independent chain of health clubs, reportedly lamented the rise of “problem” customers who lodge complaints and try to bend rules.

The health club tycoon described an “intimidating” encounter he had in a gym in Manchester with two heavily tattooed Russian bodybuilders who didn’t speak English. “It struck me how intimidating they might be for some of our older members,” he said, according to Scotland on Sunday.

Membership to Mr Bannatyne’s fitness clubs across the UK has rocketed recently after badly performing gyms slashed their monthly prices from £42 to £29 in a bid to attract new business and fight competition.

While the plan has been successful in money terms, Mr Bannatyne appears to regret the move. “There is always the risk that if you let the atmosphere change in one club, it will eventually affect other clubs too”, he said. “More and more, people are trying to sneak in a friend without paying or making complaints in the hope of getting money back.

“Once you lower your thresholds, you start to attract more of the kinds of customers who create problems and take up staff time.”

The publicist Max Clifford told The Independent that Mr Bannatyne’s remarks were “crazy and stupid” and labelled it a “Gerald Ratner moment”, a reference to the British businessman who wiped £500m from the value of the Ratner Group in 1991 by saying his products were “total crap”.

“It’s making a bad situation worse,” Mr Clifford said. “For someone to be criticising the people that are paying him, as Gerald Ratner found out years ago, is the last thing you should be doing.”

Bannatyne said in a statement: “Anyone who reads my book will know that this story is taken completely out of context. It is untrue that I have criticised any of my members.”

The 64-year-old businessman has also revealed in his new book, Riding The Storm, how his acrimonious divorce from Joanne McCue in 2012, whom he married in 2006 and had two children by, cost him £345m and drove him to the brink of suicide.

In his book he says the  divorce crushed him “financially”, with his wealth in The Sunday Times Rich List falling from £430m to £85m in two years.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Tony Blair’s time as Middle East envoy representing the US, Russia, the UN and the EU has come to an end
voicesRobert Fisk: How come a war criminal ever became a 'peace envoy' in the first place?
News
people
Life and Style
food + drink
News
peopleKatie Hopkins criticises River Island's 'seize the day' bags for trying to normalise epilepsy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Night job: Pacha nightclub DJ, Joan Ribas, is the new kingmaker on the island
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Web Developer

£30 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software / Web Developer (PHP / MYSQL) i...

Guru Careers: Account Executive

£18 - 20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: An Account Executive is needed to join one...

Guru Careers: Software Developer / Software Engineer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Software Developer / Software Engineer i...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada