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Negotiations Begin in Fitness SF Website Hacking Saga

After some heated exchanges on the Internet last week, including on Valentine's Day, no less, it appears the two sides in the Fitness SF website fiasco may be calming down and coming to an agreement.

That's the impression I got from Frank Jonen, the website developer hired by Fitness SF, which rebranded from Gold's Gym in the San Francisco Bay Area last year. Up until now, the four clubs and their owners, Sebastyen and Zsolt Jackovics were better known for their stance against the Gold's Gym corporate office, and in particular, parent company TRT Holdings CEO Robert Rowling for his contribution to a political group that holds anti-gay positions.

Last week's flare-up began when Jonen allegedly took over the Fitness SF website and replaced the home page with a letter to members, claiming the company did not pay him for his services.

"I am also writing this on the behalf of the tens of thousands of freelancers and small businesses out there facing larger corporations who can afford to starve them out," Jonen, who lives and works in Germany, wrote on the website.

Fitness SF countered with its own statement, claiming it hired Jonen in May 2012 and paid him $5,000 upon his hiring. Jonen, according to the company, missed deadlines and said the domain was "hacked and stolen" by Jonen as a form of blackmail.

"In his proposal, [Jonen] stated that the website would take 10 weeks to complete," Fitness SF wrote. "He missed numerous deadlines, including our brand launch in September. In December, he voluntarily passed the incomplete and nonfunctioning website to our new design firm. Now, Frank is attempting to portray himself as the victim when truly the victim is Fitness SF as he attempts to get paid for work he did not complete and has decided that blackmail is the way to accomplish that."

On Tuesday, Jonen told me via email that the cited allegations made by Fitness SF "do not represent facts." Jonen added, however, that "a dialog with Fitness SF is currently in progress," as evidenced by the website working again.

"Upon resolution, a full statement will be released by both parties," Jonen wrote me. When asked why he went public with his original statement using the Fitness SF website (and if he had any regrets doing so), Jonen said no public statements will be made by either side in the current state of negotiations. Don Dickerson, director of operations at Fitness SF, confirmed to me in an email today that there will be no further statements.

When and if there is an agreement, and both sides want to comment, we hope to let you know right here at Unless we get hacked first. 

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