Tony de Leede Success In Excess

Article updated March 2024.

Most people in the fitness industry have heard of Tony de Leede, having been a prominent figure in both the Australian and international fitness landscape for 40 years. Probably most recognise him from his former position as top dog with Fitness First Australia, but he also has string of wildly successful businesses to his name. Tony is the man who established an aerobics studio that turned into a 23-club chain in the States, called Australian Body Works. He is the man who Australian Fitness Network named their inaugural ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ winner in the year 2000; and the man Hugh Jackman described as being ‘so clear about what he wants, he gets what he wants.’  Tony owns Wellness Solutions, where the five pillars of wellness – food, movement, mental health, sleep, and community – form the backbone of the company’s purpose.

Outside the fitness industry, this 70-year-old mogul made Queensland’s top 100 rich list in 2011, having an estimated wealth of more than $103m (and keep in mind, this ranking was before his business ventures, FitnFast and Komune Resorts Bali, were even born).

A series of business ventures in health and wellness

A believer that once you have money it is easier to make more money, Tony’s natural flair as an entrepreneur became evident at the age of 12 when he started his first business selling stamps; a practice he mastered so well it enabled him to buy his first property by age 16. ‘I grew up in a poor family,’ Tony explains. ‘My dad died when I was young but my mum had a business head. I don’t feel like I’ve ever gone without anything.’ This is not surprising when you learn that Tony made his first million by age 27.

After leaving behind the role of top dog with Fitness First Australia, Tony launched the FitnFast fitness chain. Established by a very experienced, small consortium of industry experts headed by Tony, Fit n Fast revolutionised the health club industry by providing the average consumer with a ‘cheaper, better, faster’ concept to fitness memberships. The ‘cheaper’ refers to their pricing (of course). Their ‘faster’ refers to their efforts to re-educate members about how long you need to exercise to generate results; while the ‘better’ alludes to the fact that the clubs are larger than you might expect, as well as being equipped with top-of-the-line equipment and exercise services, including virtual group fitness.

tony de leede success

While many of us find it challenging to achieve success with one business, Tony has achieved impressive success in numerous businesses across multiple industries. He attributes this to ensuring he is involved with the right people for each project, ‘and if they have a financial investment in it, then even better,’ he adds.

Tony owned and operated a high-end, award-winning health retreat in the Gold Coast hinterlands for 17 years, called Gwinganna.

What’s New in Fitness interviewed Tony back in 2013 and asked him about this business venture, which he went into in partnership with Hugh Jackman. ‘Gwinganna was probably the biggest risk I have ever taken,’ says Tony. ‘It was a labour of love and I invested much more than I thought I would; probably three times as much as I originally anticipated. But it’s been doing very well for the five years since it opened, and that’s both here and with international recognition. It really is where I want my wife and I to end up.’

Fast forward 10 years and the resort became Australia’s largest eco-retreat and was named the Best Luxury Eco Spa at the World Luxury Spa Awards 2021. Another successful venture Tony embarked upon was Komune Resorts and Beach Club, located both on the Gold Coast and in Bali, designed to be particularly attractive to the surfing community.

What makes Tony de Leede so successful?

Tony touts convenience and innovation as being important ingredients for business success. Interestingly, in Tony’s business world, the old adage ‘the customer is always right’ isn’t something he is entirely committed to. ‘They can be,’ he explains. ‘but I would probably say my internal customers (i.e., my team) are more right than my external customers when it comes down to it. The bottom line is, in order to succeed in business you only have to work half days; you just have to decide which 12 hours of the day that will be.’

Tony’s latest venture is Wello Works, brought on by his desire to help more people improve their health and wellbeing in all areas of their lives. Wello Works is an unique and innovative coworking space that sits alongside a premium wellness facility. It is designed to offer a positive and healthy community in a shared workspace for those who want to add more balance to their workday. The wellness centre, Wello Collective is available as a stand-alone service to give access to wellness solutions in 10-20 minute sessions for the community.

This article was originally written by Analee Matthews for What’s New in Fitness Magazine – Spring 2013 edition and updated in March 2024.

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