Before his 30th birthday Larry North took a risk that would carve out his legendary career in the fitness industry.
“Most people have no idea that at age 28 I signed my first gym lease at the Highland Park Village, the most prestigious shopping center in the Southwest, and I had no business experience and didn’t have two nickels to rub together,” he recalled. “Looking back, it’s rather amazing how I pulled that off. The rest is history.”
Perhaps best known to local fitness buffs as the operator of Larry North Fitness in downtown Fort Worth (which he sold in in 2018), North made his mark in business as an internationally known fitness guru. He opened and eventually sold a total of nine gyms, spent 35 years in talk radio, had his own TV show, hosted a widely seen weight loss infomercial, wrote three bestselling books and made hundreds of local and national television appearances.
Now, at 61 (though he says proudly he feels 31), his reputation for conquering challenges precedes him – a reputation that is making him a success in his second career, private equity. He works for Satori Capital as an operating partner and business developer.
“I actually didn’t choose the private equity/capital-raising business. It somewhat chose me,” North said. “Since I started working closely with Satori Capital, every day I have to remind myself this is real and this is actually happening. I’ve always received joy in bringing value to others, and this industry is on an entirely new level.”
North said he breaks his role with Satori into several different “silos.” He finds companies to invest in that meet Satori’s criteria both in revenue and in conscious capitalism. He helps identify investors who will benefit from Satori’s platform (he’s also an investor). He’s always available to help any of Satori’s existing portfolio companies. And he applies the many lessons he learned being in business for himself for over 34 years.
“I have very few challenges in thriving in this industry,” he said. “It’s all about relationships, and if I do indeed have a super power it’s the deep-rooted relationships I’ve developed over a lifetime. I’ve earned my reputation with hard work, integrity and honesty. All I have to do is be myself and everything else falls into place.”
North’s course to a new career was charted six years ago when he was asked to kick off Satori Capital’s optimal living program, along with his wife Brenda, who does meditation. They visited each of Satori’s offices once a month, and after a few years Larry fell in love with the company and its employees.
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“Most importantly my values aligned so perfectly with theirs,” he said. “Next thing I know I’m raising capital and sourcing private equity opportunities. My first PE deal was with an amazing company named Formulife, a supplement manufacturing company. Let’s put it this way: We are knocking it out of the park.”
North is fully retired from the fitness industry now – and he means completely. No gyms, radio, TV, or speaking engagements. He’s not even on social media.
“It’s time for a new and younger generation to thrive. I never set out to be like my idol, the fitness icon Jack LaLanne, the pioneer who carved the path for so many of us,” he said. “I have nothing to do with the fitness industry other than the fact that I have a lot of relationships still in it. I want to feel I’m a good ambassador, along with my wife Brenda, by practicing every single day what I have been preaching my entire life. The two of us are in remarkable shape if I do say so myself.”
North recalled what he considers his biggest break in the fitness industry. It was when he was chosen to be the focus of an infomercial for weight loss.
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“I convinced that company to sell me all the rights for $5,000. I then sold the rights to another infomercial company and it became one of the most viewed and successful weight loss shows in the ’90s,” he said. “The Great North American Slim Down was a global sensation generating tens and tens of millions of dollars and solidifying me in my chosen path – not to mention over a million people ordered that program and many learned to lose weight and keep it off.”
North had a well-traveled upbringing. He attended grade school in Las Vegas in the 1960s, junior high and part of high school in New York in the 1970s, and moved to Texas his junior year of high school. His first job in the fitness industry was at age 16 working at Doug’s Gym in downtown Dallas.
“I took a bus from Richardson to downtown four times per week making minimum wage. Not that big a deal now to take a bus from Richardson, yet back then it was,” he said. “The day I met Big Doug he said, ‘Larry, if you come work for me I will make a man out of you.’ I guess you could say mission accomplished.”
North also worked at North Park Mall during high school, stocking ladies’ shoes for a store called Margo’s. Little did he know at the time how instrumental that job would be in his entire future.
“The GM only played Zig Ziglar tapes in the stockroom. After a while I had each word memorized,” North said. “One incredibly busy Saturday, we were short-handed and the GM insisted I get out on the floor and help the sales people. The one thing I knew for sure was where every single shoe was located. I ended up the having largest recorded sales day in memory.”
He never stocked shoes again. He earned 9% commission and started studying sales motivational experts such as Ziglar, Tom Hopkins and Brian Tracy. He also started reading fashion magazines from cover to cover, and found he could get hired anywhere just by showing his commission pay stub.
“It was a true blessing because it allowed me to earn money while pursuing my passion,” he said. “I loved every minute of it. Come to think of it, I’ve loved every job I’ve ever had.”
North describes himself as a very simple person. He does the same thing just about every day. He wakes up early, has breakfast with Brenda and their dog Bliss. He goes for an hour walk followed by a 45-60 minute weight training session and an occasional sauna. Then he goes about his day, at his pace, on his terms, starting with a leisurely walk from the Norths’ high-rise apartment to his office in downtown Dallas.
“I’ve been blessed to travel around the world. However, there are so many places I haven’t been and places I want to go back to,” he said. “My wife and I already have four trips planned before the end of the year. I grew up staying in dumps and living in subpar apartments, so I’m a bit of a travel snob. I like to go first class. I love my dog and cat. Being with my family is my number one priority.”
He does have his pet peeves, including people complaining about being too busy. Being busy is something to be respected and appreciated, he believes, along with a constant desire to educate oneself.
“Who’s busier, the CEO of a successful company or the single mom with three kids working two jobs just to put food on the table and shoes on their feet?” he said. “I’m living my best life by design. I’m an entirely whole person. My needs are met and my wants are few. It’s taken most of my life to get to where I can do anything I want when I want, and the only thing that’s constant is my desire to never stop learning. I’m excited to see what lies ahead.”
“After being in business for close to four decades,” he said, “the one thing that is a given is I only do business with people I love. How I know this is because I will never do business with people I don’t like or trust. You can take that to the bank.”