Retailer LL Bean keeping it in the family

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 20, 2013 at 5:23 pm •  Published: May 20, 2013
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FREEPORT, Maine (AP) — L.L. Bean's grandson Leon Gorman is retiring as chairman of the outdoors retailer after more than a half-century as the company's chairman or CEO, but the privately held firm is keeping the position in the family.

The Maine-based outdoors retailer informed its 5,000 full- and part-time workers Monday that Bean's great-grandson Shawn Gorman is the latest family member to serve as chairman, underscoring a commitment to family ownership in an era in which most large retailers are publicly traded.

Gorman said there's been a careful behind-the-scenes transition led by his 78-year-old uncle, Leon Gorman, who's credited with modernizing the company after L.L. Bean's death in 1967, setting it on a path of growth by transitioning from catalogs to online retailing.

"Leon is a walking legend around here," Gorman told The Associated Press. "He made this business what it is. I'm here to make sure it continues for the next 100 years."

L.L. Bean got its start in 1912 when Leon Leonwood Bean obtained a list of out-of-state hunters from the state of Maine and sent out mailings touting his rubber-soled hunting boots. He opened the first store five years later in Freeport. The company now has more than $1.5 billion in annual sales.

L.L. Bean's family ownership is something of a rarity in a marketplace where consolidations mean more large retailers are publicly traded.

"What you have are publicly traded companies like Nordstrom and Dillard's that are still run by family members, but there's just not that many large private retailers anymore," said Michael Appel, president of Appel Associates, a consultant focusing on retail and consumer goods in Purchase, N.Y.