The troubled California Fitness gym chain is looking for a buyer as it faces a winding-up petition from a creditor. This comes just two months after it was rapped by the city’s consumer watchdog for using intimidation and misleading sales practices on customers. The firm – formally known as JV Fitness and which also trades as mYoga and Leap – said in a statement: “The company is currently in negotiation with potential buyers for the acquisition of its business or shareholdings.” Top gym chain California Fitness in trouble again after customer allegedly tricked into HK$140,000 payment It assured customers that operations would carry on as normal “until further notice”. A High Court document on Tuesday showed the petition was filed by BeSpark Technologies Engineering, solely owned by Wong Ping-kuen, who until May was a JV Fitness director. The amount that JV Fitness, one of the city’s biggest gym operators, owes the creditor is not immediately known, but a hearing date has been scheduled for August 31. Customer Frances Lee, who joined California Fitness in 2013, said she was worried she might not recover the HK$16,000 she handed over in April to extend her membership until 2023. California Fitness, which opened its first gym in Hong Kong in 1996, currently has nine branches in the city and 15 centres across Asia. While mYoga boasts two branches, Leap, a community version of California Fitness, has one. An investigation by the South China Morning Post reveals that four directors – Wong, Cheng Wai-hong, Cheng Kar-tat, and Chan Wai-man – departed one after another between April and May. The Company Registry shows that Wong joined as a director in December last year. In April, California Fitness was publicly named and shamed by the Consumer Council. The council said the number of complaints lodged against the fitness chain increased by 30 per cent to 296 cases in 2015. The figure accounted for 51 per cent of all complaints the council received. Among them, 22 cases involved over HK$100,000 each, and in one case HK$570,000. Hong Kong Consumer Council names and shames California Fitness for aggressive sales practices The council said earlier that half of the complaints against the gym chain were lodged by new members who claimed they were pressured or misled into signing membership agreements, with one of the most common practices being lucky draws or free trials. Customers would then face hard-sell tactics or be lured into providing their bank card information for transactions without their consent, the council alleged earlier. California Fitness was also earlier under fire for allegedly forcing a mentally challenged man to pay for fitness courses and take out loans totalling HK$90,000. Barrister and lawmaker Dennis Kwok warned that if the chain went bankrupt, gym-goers might lose their membership fees. “General customers come last,” he said, of the aftermath of a winding-up order being granted. A Consumer Council spokesman said customers should avoid paying large subscription fees in one go as they could lose their money should the gym chain close.