Leon A. Gorman, chairman emeritus of L.L. Bean who ran the company his grandfather founded for 30 years and was primarily responsible for its growth into an outdoor catalog and ecommerce juggernaut, died Thursday at his home in Yarmouth, ME at the age of 80.
Gorman was inducted into the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame in 1992. He was a member of the 1997 Blue Ribbon Commission for the United States Postal Service, which was launched by the Postmaster General to address the future direction of the Postal Service. He was also a recipient of the USPS Partnership for Progress Award.
He was the keynote speaker for the 2007 Annual Conference for Catalog & Multichannel Merchants (ACCM) in Boston, co-produced by Multichannel Merchant and the DMA.
In 2006, Gorman wrote a book about his four decades of experience as the leader of L.L. Bean entitled “L.L. Bean: The Making of an American Icon.” The book gives a behind-the-scenes look at L.L. Bean’s history and culture.
In 2010, Gorman received Bowdoin College’s highest honor, the Bowdoin Prize Award, which recognizes a distinctive contribution in a field of human endeavor, noting his distinguished career as a business leader, conservationist and philanthropist.
Gorman served as Chairman of the Board from 2001 until 2013.
He was born in Nashua, NH and raised in Yarmouth. He graduated from Bowdoin College in 1956, and spent four years in the Navy before joining L.L. Bean, Inc., in 1961. He was appointed president of the company in 1967, following the death of his grandfather, L.L. Bean, who founded the company in 1912.
Soon after becoming president, Gorman introduced the stakeholder concept, which clearly linked L.L. Bean’s success as a business to key stakeholders – customers, employees, shareholders, vendors, communities and the natural environment. In his 30 years as president, Gorman led L.L. Bean from a $4.75 million catalog company to an over-one-billion-dollar multichannel enterprise. Gorman firmly established L.L. Bean as a leader in the outdoors industry, offering high-quality equipment and apparel, backed by world-class service and guaranteed to last. In 2001, Gorman was named Chairman of the Board, turning over his responsibilities as President and CEO to Christopher McCormick.
An outdoors enthusiast, Gorman frequently tested the company’s products on trips that have included climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, skiing Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division Trail and cycling through New Zealand. Most notable was his ascent to Camp Three during the 1990 Mount Everest International Peace Climb, sponsored by L.L. Bean. Gorman also enjoyed his favorite outdoor pursuits closer to home, including hiking the Camden Hills and Georges Highland Path in mid-coast Maine, biking the carriage roads of Acadia National Park and grouse hunting and fly fishing in northern Maine.
Gorman played a significant role in the conservation community through both leadership and financial contributions. The organizations he was involved with include Maine Audubon, Hurricane Island Outward Bound School, the Maine Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club and Land for Maine’s Future Board. He and his wife, Lisa, played a lead role in The Nature Conservancy’s St. John River Project, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s capital campaign and fundraising efforts by the Student Conservation Association. Gorman also demonstrated his commitment to community through involvement in various national and state civic organizations, such as the Maine Community College Foundation’s Leadership Council, Bowdoin College, the Casco Bay YMCA and the United Way.
Gorman was a leader in public policy discussions about Maine’s economy through his involvement in state organizations and initiatives. He served as co-chair of the Institute on the Maine Economy and as a member of the International Board of Governors’ Maine Youth Apprenticeship Program. In 1997, he received the Navigator Award for Entrepreneur of the Year from the Maine Chamber of Commerce and Business Alliance.
In 2001, the Maine Chamber of Commerce awarded Gorman the Business Hall of Fame Award for compassion, courage and commitment in business leadership. Gorman was active in and received numerous awards from various national and state civic and philanthropic organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, Appalachian Mountain Club, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Boy Scouts of America, Preble Street and United Way.