Son returns home to take the weight of bodybuilder dad’s business

John Citrone and son Carlo.

John Citrone and son Carlo.

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A globetrotting poker player has returned home to the North East to take over the running of his family’s business.

Carlo Citrone has sat at card tables alongside film stars including Matt Damon and James Woods and mentored Australian cricket legend Shane Warne.

John  Citrone with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

John Citrone with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

His father John is himself no stranger to super stardom as a nine-time winner of Mr Universe.

During a 50-year career he was a winner of 15 world bodybuilding titles, became a close friend of Arnold Schwarzenegger and – on the BBC’s children’s programme Blue Peter – blew up a hot water bottle which then exploded.

He has lived all his life in Chester-le-Street, where his grandfather opened an ice cream parlour in the 1900s – and Citrone’s Café and Bar in Front Street is still going strong today.

John, 73, took up bodybuilding to deal with bullying because of his 5ft 4in height - his twin Eddie, who was also short, died age 63 of lung cancer.

He’s formulated and developed them and they’re all based on his experience over the years, knowing what athletes need.

Carlos Citrone

His passion for fitness led him to launch the Washington-based business Peak Body in 1995, using his knowledge of protein powders and drinks to help fellow bodybuilders.

Now Carlo has moved back to Washington from London to help run the firm.

“The business and the products are him,” said Carlo, whose own bodybuilding career was cut short when he was nearly killed in a motorbike accident.

“He’s formulated and developed them and they’re all based on his experience over the years, knowing what athletes need.”

Re-united after 40 years - Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Citrone and John's wife Kim.

Re-united after 40 years - Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Citrone and John's wife Kim.

Although John will continue to oversee new products, he has handed over the day-to-day running of the business to his son who is looking to grow Peak Body – which currently employs seven people.

Its range of new products, for example, are aimed at anybody interested in fitness: runners, dieters, gym members, as well as bodybuilders.

Carlo, who has presented Sky’s Poker TV channel since its launch in 2007, will continue with his poker playing career, which earns him £1million.

He plans to take part in next year’s prestigious World Series in Las Vegas.

In 1965 John was one of the first people in the UK to get to know Schwarzenegger, who came here as a 19-year-old from Austria as they competed in Mr Universe.

The future Hollywood actor and governor of California stayed with John and his family in Chester-le-Street and one night visited the Rococo night club in Sunderland.

“There had been pictures of him in the papers so people couldn’t believe it was him when we turned up,” said John.

Schwarzenegger moved to the US to seek his fame and fortune and they did not see each other again until two years ago, when John was in the audience for An Evening with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Leeds.