Lucille Roberts, a self-proclaimed “exercise nut,” turned her passion for working out into a health club empire worth $30 million.
Born in Russia, Roberts and her family immigrated to the U.S. in order to escape religious persecution. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Business School’s Owner/Management Program.
In 1969, Roberts and her husband Bob scraped together $15,000 and opened a spa in midtown Manhattan. Her goal was to offer affordable exercise facilities for women who avoided male-dominated health clubs. The concept was an immediate success and two years later, she changed the name of the club to her own.
Roberts eventually opened gyms in 50 other locations. With more than 200,000 members, Lucille Roberts is now one of the largest women-only establishments in the country. When she wasn’t running the health club chain, Roberts wrote and published the books “Computercise” and “The Lucille Roberts 14 Day Makeover.”
Roberts died on July 17 of lung cancer. She was 59.