He attended the University of Wisconsin and Yale University, but left the latter in his junior year.
He learned to dance and play the saxophone from circus performers and formed his own dance band while at college. After working for two years in a New York stock brokerage, North worked for the Ringling brothers" real estate companies and for the circus during the summers. He returned to the brokerage business from 1929 to 1936, while continuing to assist the Ringling brothers with their business interests.
Under North"s management, the circus switched from tents to air conditioned venues in 1956, in part to offset rising labor costs.
North also replaced the circus"s unrelated acts with thematic programs, and once hired Igor Stravinsky to compose a ballet for the circus" elephants with choreography by George Balanchine. The Ringling heirs sold the circus in 1967, ending 80 years of Ringling family control of the enterprise.
After the sale of the circus, he moved to Europe, where he lived in Switzerland and Belgium. North died of a stroke on June 4, 1985 in Brussels, Belgium at the age of 81.