Thursday, December 5, 2013
FREEPORT — Leon Gorman, who led L.L. Bean for more than four decades and oversaw its transformation into Maine's most recognized brand, stepped down as chairman of the company Monday.
In this September 2010 file photo, Lisa and Leon Gorman, left, along with Michele Johns. orman, who led L.L. Bean for more than four decades and oversaw its transformation into Maine's most recognized brand, stepped down as chairman of the company Monday.
Derek Davis / Staff Photographer
Shawn Gorman, the new chairman of L.L. Bean, poses at the flagship store in Freeport on Monday, May 20, 2013.
Shawn Patrick Ouellette / Staff Photographer
His nephew Shawn Gorman, great-grandson of company founder Leon Leonwood Bean, was named his successor.
Shawn Gorman, 47, said his ascendancy to chairman of L.L. Bean's board of directors Friday was the culmination of a long grooming process "that has been in the works for about two years now."
Leon Gorman, who is 78, became chairman of L.L. Bean's family-controlled board of directors in 2001 after his 33-year tenure as president and CEO. He has been named chairman emeritus and will remain a board member, company officials said.
In a memo that Leon Gorman sent Monday to L.L. Bean employees, he expressed pride in having led the company for so long and said he looks forward to spending more time outdoors with his family.
"I am pleased that, after a careful review and discussion with family members over the past two years, there remains a firm commitment to continuing family ownership," the memo said. "I am also confident we have the family governance structures in place to sustain the business through future generations of family owners committed to our stakeholder philosophy of doing business. Importantly, we have the family leadership capabilities, commitment and individuals ready to step into leader roles.
"I feel the timing is right for this transition," he wrote.
Leon Gorman was not available for interviews Monday, said company spokeswoman Carolyn Beem.
The board elected Shawn Gorman at its annual shareholder and board of directors meeting Friday in Freeport, where the company is based, but company leaders said the choice had been made long ago.
"As with Leon's transition from president and CEO 12 years ago, this has been a carefully planned succession process," said L.L. Bean President and CEO Chris McCormick, who will remain in that position. "The board election marks the completion of a family leadership transition process initiated by Leon two years ago."
Shawn Gorman has worked in multiple areas of the company for 22 years, most recently as senior vice president of brand communications. He will step down from that position to serve as chairman full time, Beem said.
Jennifer Wilson, who is Leon Gorman's daughter, and Nate Clark, Leon Gorman's cousin, were chosen to be vice chairs of the board, said the memo to staffers. Wilson works in corporate merchandising in the women's product area, and Clark is head of the family governance committee.
Shawn Gorman said he plans to maintain the company's commitment to family ownership while redoubling efforts to differentiate the popular outdoor retailer from its competitors.
He started as an advertising analyst for L.L. Bean, then moved into its international sales division. He then worked in the e-commerce division before spending more than a decade running the company's L.L. Bean Visa card operation.
As a privately held business, L.L. Bean does not disclose financial information. The company was founded in 1912 as a one-room operation selling a single product, the Maine Hunting Shoe.
It has since grown into one of the country's largest merchants of outdoor gear and apparel through in-store, online and catalog sales.
Its 220,000-square-foot retail campus in Freeport is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and has more than 3 million visitors annually, according to the company.
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