Longtime L.L. Bean President And Founder’s Grandson Dies At Age 80

gormanThe flagship L.L. Bean store in Freeport, Maine doesn’t close. It literally does not have locks on its doors. Yet it’s going to close next weekend during the funeral of the company’s former longtime president and the grandson of founder L.L. Bean himself, Leon Gorman, who died yesterday at age 80.

When Gorman took over as company president in 1967, the company wasn’t the retail giant that we know today. During his time with the company, it grew 20% per year, and went from having about 100 employees to more than 5,000, mostly in Maine since Gorman resisted the trend of outsourcing customer service.

Some employees were nervous when the founder died and Gorman took over in 1967, but it turned out that his grandfather and uncle weren’t running things very effectively. “L.L. and his son, Carl, held onto all the authority, yet weren’t doing anything. The product line and catalog merchandising and operations were all going downhill,” Gorman told the Portland Press-Herald in an interview about company history a few years ago.

L.L. Bean was also an early e-commerce adopter, even though Gorman himself didn’t know how to use a computer. They began accepting orders online in 1995, yet still mail millions of paper catalogs every year, perhaps always understanding the public’s love of glossy catalogs even if they would ultimately place orders online.

The company remains family-owned, and the current chairman is one of Gorman’s nephews, but the current president and CEO isn’t a family member.

Leon Gorman, visionary who led L.L. Bean’s growth into a global giant, dies at 80 [Portland Press-Herald]