Lillian Vernon to step down as CEO

It’s the end of an era. Personalized gifts pioneer Lillian Vernon, 74, who founded the Lillian Vernon Corp. from her kitchen table in 1951 and built it into a $287 million catalog empire, will relinquish day-to-day responsibilities.

The legendary catalog merchant on Feb. 28 asked the board to start searching for a new chief executive. According to spokesperson David Hochberg, Vernon will remain chairman/CEO until a replacement is found.

When Vernon does step down, she ends a remarkable run as CEO of the multititle gifts cataloger. Last year, just before she started her 50th year as CEO, Vernon appeared at the top of a list of the longest-serving U.S. CEOs in “Business Week.”

Hochberg says Vernon will concentrate on licensing the company name for the first time. The Rye, NY-based cataloger soon expects to announce an agreement with a well-known licensing company, he adds.

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