Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of Fame: Bahram Akradi
Year came to U.S.: 1978
Education: BS Electrical Engineering, University of Colorado
Business: Life Time Fitness, Inc. (1992)
Headquarters: Chanhassen, MN
2014 revenue: $1.3 billion
North American employment: 24,000
- Akradi’s personal philosophy of fitness and well-being has made Life Time Fitness unique and successful.
- He competes in “Leadman” triathlons, which include a 3.1-mile swim, 140-mile bike and 13.6-mile run.
Bahram Akradi takes fitness seriously. In fact, he takes a healthy lifestyle, a positive outlook and personal empowerment seriously. In his own words, “No matter what your goals, no matter what your personal or professional ambitions, making a conscious choice to change your life is an incredibly empowering, and incredibly challenging, thing to do.” Akradi has embraced this challenge and helped many others do the same through Life Time Fitness.
Born in Tehran, Iran, Akradi fulfilled his boyhood dream at age 17 when he migrated to the United States and joined his brother. To pay his way through college, he worked in restaurants and eventually took a job at U.S. Swim and Fitness (then Nautilus Fitness Center, Inc.).
It was there that he found his calling. He conceived of something more than just a gym. He envisioned a comprehensive, healthy-way-of-life company that could have a significant impact on the overall wellness of consumers.
Akradi worked his way up and eventually became part owner of the health club. By the time it was sold in 1986, it was the second-largest health club chain in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market.
After the sale, Akradi was resolute on making his own gym a reality. He liquidated all his personal assets and opened a 27,000-square foot club in a Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, location where three other clubs had already failed. Akradi set a goal to sell 2,700 memberships in a year and he made it with 2,702.
Life Time Fitness 119 locations in 36 markets, including the U.S. and Canada, plus nutritional products, a healthy lifestyle magazine called Experience Life, athletic events, full-service spas and cafes, personal training, health education, and corporate wellness programs. The company’s success attracted attention from private investors, and in 2015 private-equity firms Leonard Green & Partners, TPG and LNK Partners purchased all outstanding share of Life Time Fitness in a deal valued at more than $4 billion.
Akradi himself continues to challenge his abilities. He competes in and organizes “Leadville races” and “Leadman triathlons,” the latter comprising a 3.1-mile swim, 140-mile bike and 13.6-mile run.
Updated July 2016