CHANHASSEN, MN -- Life Time Fitness CEO Bahram Akradi said during an earnings call with analysts today that he is pleased with the company’s growth in the third quarter 2008. Yet Akradi spent little time on the biggest news about the company in the last two weeks: the sale of his shares of company stock.

Two weeks ago, Life Time announced that 582,000 shares of Akradi’s Life Time stock—worth roughly $11 million—were sold by one of the financial institutions that made some of the loans to cover Akradi’s obligations. Today, Akradi said about 1.5 million shares of his company stock were sold between Oct. 9 and Wednesday to cover margin loss. After the sales, about 2.6 million of Akradi’s 2.8 million shares in Life Time remain pledged against those loans, Akradi said.

After disclosing those figures, Akradi said he would not comment further on the sales of his stock.

“I continue to have confidence in the long-term prospect of Life Time Fitness,” Akradi said.

Total revenue for the third quarter 2008 grew 17.3 percent to $198.8 million from $169.5 million during the same period last year, driven primarily by growth in membership dues and in-center revenue. Total revenue for the first nine months of 2008 grew to $575.7 million from $484.7 million during the same period last year.

Net income during third quarter 2008 grew 17.6 percent to $21.6 million from $18.4 million in third quarter 2007. For the nine months ended Sept. 30, 2008, net income grew to $58.8 million compared with $49 million in the prior-year period.

Akradi said the growth in total revenue and net income was good in the recent economic environment but was still below the company’s expectations.

“As has been the theme for the first two quarters of this year, I was pleased with our performance in the face of a continuing challenged consumer environment,” Akradi said.

Memberships increased 13.2 percent to 557,164 on Sept. 30, 2008, up from 492,410 on Sept. 30, 2007.

The company’s expectations for fiscal year 2008 are down from what they were after second quarter 2008. Revenue is expected to be $775 million to $780 million, or about 18 to 19 percent growth. That’s down from 19 to 22 percent, or about $780 million to $800 million that the company previously expected. Also, net income is expected to be $79 million to $80.5 million, or about 16 to 18 percent growth. That’s down from 21 to 23 percent, or about $82 million to $83.5 million.

Life Time Chief Financial Officer Michael Robinson said on the call that the company’s spa business has been affected the most from the slower economic environment. Attrition rates are slightly higher, Robinson said, primarily because members who do not often use the club are cancelling their memberships at a higher rate than they did before. Most of those members may have questioned the charge on their credit card statement in the past but did not take action.

“That’s changed in this environment,” Robinson said.

In terms of its capital structure, the company has raised $265 million over the last five months, Robinson said in the call. Life Time opened three new clubs in third quarter 2008 and plans to open four more clubs in the fourth quarter, two of which are already opened, Robinson said. The company plans to end the year with 81 clubs. In 2009, the company plans to open six clubs, and in 2010, another six clubs, which is a smaller expansion than the company originally had planned.

“As we look to the near-term future, the current credit environment has given us pause,” Robinson said. “Over the past four weeks, we have been exhaustively reviewing our various sensitivities as it relates to our expansion efforts. What we kept coming back to is that in this unpredictable environment, we should maintain prudence.”

“In the spirit of fiscal responsibility and prudence, we felt it was necessary to lower our expansion plans starting in 2009,” Robinson said later. “We feel slowing our club opening schedule is a smart move today, since it will allow us to continue to drive profitable growth but not put pressure on the capital structure. Internally, we’re simply looking at this as taking our foot off the gas slightly.”

Akradi announced the resignation of Steve Sefton from the company’s board of directors. Sefton resigned on Monday. Akradi also mentioned two other moves on the board of directors that took place in August: the resignation of Jim Halpin and the appointment of Martha Morfitt. Morfitt was most recently the CEO and a director of CNS Inc., a publicly traded manufacturer and marketer of consumer health care products. Joe Vassalluzzo, a current member of the board, was named the board’s lead director.

Life Time stock was at $19.66 a share this afternoon.