2012 Minnesota Business Hall Of Fame

Hall of Fame Inductees

Photo by Travis Anderson

From left to right: Richard Davis, U.S. Bancorp; Sally Smith, Buffalo Wild Wings; Bahram Akradi, Life Time Fitness; Douglas Baker, Jr., Ecolab; Curtis Sampson, Communications Systems, Inc.

Honoring five lifetimes of achievement.

by Brian Lambert

June 29, 2012

Each year, Twin Cities Business recognizes the accomplishments of Minnesota executives who have made lifetime contributions to Minnesota business. The 2012 inductees into the Minnesota Business Hall of Fame join an elite group of individuals who rank among the most accomplished and respected Minnesota business leaders of all time. Each has an entrepreneurial mindset and confidence that has driven their success. At the same time, each has a down-to-earth quality that is quintessentially Minnesotan.

Bahram Akradi founded Life Time Fitness with one location, in Brooklyn Park. Life Time is now the one of the largest fitness club chains in the country, with 105 locations and annual revenues of $1 billion. Much of Akradi’s success is due to the fact that he doesn’t sit still, either in his own exercise habits or in his ability to adjust to changes in the market.

Douglas Baker Jr., CEO of Ecolab since 2004 and its chairman since 2006, has guided the St. Paul sanitation supply and food service equipment company into new markets through dozens of savvy acquisitions. Ecolab now has operations in 160 countries and $11.3 billion in annual sales.

Richard Davis started in the banking industry as a teller. Now he’s chairman, CEO, and president of U.S. Bancorp, one of the nation’s largest regional banking systems, with 3,085 branches in 25 states. Among Davis’ other successes as the bank’s leader: keeping it away from risky investments that tripped up banks large and small during the recession.

Curtis Sampson made his hometown of Hector, Minnesota, the headquarters of a telecommunications empire that stretches worldwide—and which has reached into other holdings outside telecom, notably Canterbury Park, which he saved from closing.

Sally Smith was a financial officer for hearing-aid entrepreneur Ken Dahlberg when she took over one of Dahlberg’s investments, a small Cincinnati-based restaurant chain called Buffalo Wild Wings. It’s not small anymore: Under Smith’s leadership as CEO and president, Buffalo Wild Wings is a successful public company that’s within striking distance of 1,000 stores.

Sally Smith

Sally Smith

The down-to-earth CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings took a small but promising restaurant chain and has it flying high.

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Richard Davis

Richard Davis

While numerous other banks were burned by careless investments and loans, U.S. Bank stayed strong, thanks to his “consistent, predictable” approach.

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Douglas Baker Jr.

Douglas Baker Jr

The Ecolab chairman and CEO has overcome numerous challenges during his climb to the top. Now he’s overseeing the absorption of an acquisition that should nearly double his company’s size.

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Curtis Sampson

Curtis Sampson

He has created telecommunications companies that rang up strong returns for investors. And he’s found creative ways to keep Canterbury Park in the money.

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Bahram Akradi

Bahram Akradi

He emigrated from Iran just as the revolution was rising. Here in the United States, he’s risen in the fitness industry with his innovative, customer-focused Life Time Fitness club chain.

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