WEIDER, BEN (1924– ), Canadian businessman, physical fitness enthusiast, and Napoleon scholar. Weider was born into a working-class Montreal family. After serving in the Canadian military during World War II, and with only an elementary school education, he joined his brother Joe, who was publishing a bodybuilding magazine. Together the brothers expanded into the manufacture and sale of bodybuilding equipment. Their business now includes the manufacture of nutritional food and health supplements. Though Joe eventually moved to the United States, while Ben stayed in Canada, their holdings have become a sport, physical fitness, and bodybuilding empire. Two Weider companies, Weider Sports Equipment and Weider Health and Fitness, are estimated by some industry analysts to control as much as 25 percent of the worldwide health and fitness market.
To generate interest in bodybuilding and bring recognized standards to international weightlifting, in 1946 Ben Weider established the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB). It has since become the world's oldest organization for bodybuilders and fitness competitors, active in over 170 countries. As the president of the IFBB, Weider worked to have bodybuilding and the IFBB recognized on the world sports stage. In 1998 the International Olympic Committee granted the IFBB official recognition as the international governing body of weightlifting.
From his home in Montreal, Weider was active in the Montreal and Canadian Jewish communities and an advocate of building political, ethnic, and religious understanding through sports and physical fitness. His efforts have been widely recognized in Canada and abroad. The Montreal YMHA is named in his honor. He was also granted several honorary degrees and the Order of Canada, the nation's highest citizen award.
Weider is also an acknowledged Napoleon scholar and served as president of the International Napoleonic Society. He is credited with groundbreaking research on the French emperor. He published several books on Napoleon, including The Murder of Napoleon, which was translated into 39 languages and sold over a million copies.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.