Friends and colleagues in the health club industry are mourning the death of Keith Albright, the vice president of development at World Gym International who previously served as senior vice president of franchising at Gold's Gym.
World Gym International, Los Angeles, confirmed Albright's passing to Club Industry, as did several of his colleagues from Gold's Gym. Albright died Sunday in his home state of Texas. He was 64.
"The World Gym International family has suffered a great loss with the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Keith R. Albright," Guy Cammilleri, managing director of World Gym International, said in a statement. "Keith was truly one of a kind and had such a positive impact on so many. We benefited greatly from his wisdom and tremendous work ethic. He inspired and influenced many people throughout his life and career. The thoughts and prayers of the World Gym family are with his wife, Jennifer, and their family."
Ginger Collins, executive director of the Gold's Gym Franchisee Association (GGFA), told Club Industry that Albright died in his sleep. Collins recalled Albright as a Mensa member with a down-to-earth attitude and a famous wit who "will always be remembered for his big heart."
"He was the consummate professional who worked to help position the franchisees with improved environments with the franchise agreements and overall business principles," Collins said. "There are a few of us that know the depth of gratitude our brand should honor Keith for through his relentless drive in finding out the best for all parties involved."
Prior to joining World Gym International, Albright held senior management positions with various international, national and regional franchisors. Albright was hired by Gold's Gym in 2005 and stayed with the Dallas-based company until he left in 2009. He also served as key advisor to Champions Youth Fitness, a franchisor of hosted and free-standing fitness centers for children aged 13 and younger.
Albright served as an officer in the U.S. Navy and received his juris doctorate with distinction from Emory University Law School in Atlanta. He began his professional career as an attorney before getting into the franchising business.
Blair McHaney, a former president of the GGFA who remains a current Gold's Gym franchisee, called Albright a friend and mentor.
"He deserves so much of the credit for what became the Legacy 2 franchise agreement, which kept hundreds of gyms in the brand at a critical time in Gold's Gym history," McHaney said. "He was fair, smart and fun. Keith would challenge my thinking, debate for the purpose of elevating an idea and take a call whenever I needed him."
McHaney added that Albright would call him on the Nov. 10 birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps, knowing McHaney's father had served as a Marine in the Korean War.
"I can't quite put into words his importance to me," McHaney said. "He made a difference to me personally. It is an understatement to say I will miss him."
Dave Reiseman, vice president of communications for Gold's Gym, called the news of Albright's passing "absolutely devastating."
"I worked closely with Keith for five years and we did many 'tours of duty' together, whether that be at [the Gold's Gym] convention, IHRSA, franchise visits or simply the nearest bar," Reiseman recalled. "He was a great guy who always had a funny story to tell and who loved to make people laugh. He really valued personal relationships, and I think loved that part of our business more than anything."
Jerry McCall, the longest-standing Gold's Gym franchisee, said Albright was "eminently reasonable to do business with" and enjoyed working in the health club industry.
"I used to always enjoy meeting him at the Club Industry Show for dinner in a favorite Chicago restaurant that we both enjoyed," McCall says. "I am shocked that he has left us. He was such a nice and decent guy."