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Wylie expands fitness empire

Wednesday 16 January 2013 6:00

The fitness business backed by North East entrepreneur Graham Wylie has signed deals to open up five new UK centres and expand into the Middle East market.

Wylie, co-founder of software giant Sage and owner of luxury hotel Close House and IT firm TSG, bought the European rights to the US-born fitness phenomenon Speedflex and opened a gym in Newcastle last year.

SpeedFlex, which offers a high-intensity, low-impact workout, is operated on a day to day basis by former Newcastle United physio Paul Ferris and lists ex-footballers Alan Shearer and Rob Lee and TV personality Ben Shepherd among its ambassadors.

Having quickly built up its customer base on Tyneside through its Jesmond centre, the firm has now signed deals to open up centres in London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Brentwood as well as Dubai, UAE.

The company, which aims to expand throughout Europe using a franchise model, says it has also seen strong interest from 12 other UK cities as well as in other Gulf states and from as far away as Bermuda.

Wylie initially acquired the rights for the European market only but, because he funded the research in the US to develop the technology before its launch, he has the option of accessing territories further afield.

In a recent interview with BQ he said the company had the potential to expand into between 50 and 100 locations within three years.

The firm’s latest expansion was announced yesterday as it welcomed Gold medal winning Paralympian and Team GB Captain Stephen Miller as its newest ambassador.

Miller was born with Cerebral Palsy, which is a form of brain damage that affects signals from his brain to his muscles, making balance and coordination far more difficult than usual.

He has already started his fitness programme at Speedflex, and is now able to work on the machines alongside able bodied people of all levels of fitness and ages whilst in his wheelchair.  As well as being a speedflex ambassador, Miller will have his training sponsored by the fitness brand.

He said: “After the disappointment of my performance in London, and then being dropped from the World Class Performance Programme, I'm delighted that Speedflex have agreed to support me and sponsor me. I'm still recovering from hip replacement surgery and Speedflex is exactly what I need to get back to full fitness, I can push myself to the limit without risk of injury.

“I still have big ambitions including competing at the Rio 2018 Paralympics and the IPC 2017 World Championships in London and Speedflex will be an integral part of achieving my future goals. My most immediate goal is to walk again, something I havn't been able to do for 3 years. I'm so grateful to Speedflex for believing in me when I need it the most and I look forward to repaying their faith in the years to come".

Wylie added: "To be able to help someone who has represented Great Britain for over ten years in four Paralympic Games, three World Championships and two European Championships is both an honour and a great privilege.  We are delighted to work alongside this incredibly brave and strong man, who has fought against the odds to overcome his disability and represent his country.”