Leon Leonwood Bean, Founder
One of Wall Street Journal’s Top Ten Entrepreneurs of the 20th century, L.L. Bean was an innovator in the mail-order catalog industry. Born Leon Leonwood Bean on October 13, 1872, in Greenwood, Maine, he was the fourth of six children born to Sarah Swett and Benjamin Warren Bean. L.L. learned to love the outdoors and gained a strong work ethic and family loyalty from his parents in rural Maine. In 1884, shortly after Leon’s 12th birthday, his parents died within four days of each other. Orphaned, the three youngest Bean children went to live with friends of the family.
At 13, L.L. went on his first hunting trip. The pleasure he gained from his time in the woods would last a lifetime. After attending Kent's Hill Commercial College, he moved to Yarmouth, Maine, and worked as a clerk in brother Otho’s shoe store. Thus began his retail career. In 1895, Otho opened a second store in Freeport, Maine, called Bean Bros. and hired L.L. to manage it. In 1898, L.L. married Bertha Porter of Freeport and started a family. He fathered three children, Lester Carlton (1900-1967), Charles Warren (1901-1971) and Barbara (1907-1985).
Still an avid outdoorsman, L.L. would hunt and fish at every opportunity. At that time no adequate footwear was available to keep a hunter's feet dry and warm in the cold, wet woods of Maine. In 1911, L.L asked a local cobbler to sew a rugged leather upper to a waterproof rubber bottom and the Maine Hunting Shoe® was born. L.L. became a pioneer of direct marketing by selling his new boot through the mail and through his retail store.
With the growing success of the Maine Hunting Shoe, L.L. Bean began to develop rugged, comfortable clothing to wear in the outdoors. Still making time for hunting and fishing trips, he told his customers he would not sell merchandise he had not used himself. This commitment reinforced to his customers that his store was a reliable resource for outdoor recreational gear. The fact that he was an outdoorsman who not only developed and tested his products but also guaranteed them to be 100% satisfactory in every way, established him as one of the most respected names in the business.
By the 1930s, L.L.Bean carried clothing and equipment for a variety of outdoor pursuits - hunting and fishing, camping, skiing, snowshoeing and hiking among them. His original flyer had become a catalog mailed twice a year and he had established a million-dollar business.
During World War II, L.L. Bean was called to Washington to help the Pentagon develop and manufacture rugged products to support the troops in the field. With the growth of his business, his reputation for selling quality products at a good value became well known.
L.L. Bean ran his company until his death at the age of 94 on February 5, 1967. He attributed his long life and good health to the time he spent in the outdoors.
Leon A. Gorman, Chairman of the Board, L.L.Bean, Inc.
Leon A. Gorman was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, and raised in Yarmouth, Maine. 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, Leon 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, Leon Gorman led L.L.Bean from a $4.75 million catalog company to an over-one-billion-dollar multichannel enterprise. Leon 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, Leon Gorman was named Chairman of the Board, turning over his responsibilities as President and CEO to Christopher McCormick.
An outdoors enthusiast, Leon frequently tests 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. Leon also enjoys his favorite outdoor pursuits closer to home, including hiking the Camden Hills and Georges Highland Path in midcoast Maine, biking the carriage roads of Acadia National Park, and grouse hunting and fly fishing in northern Maine.
Leon Gorman was inducted into the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame in 1992. Leon 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.
Leon has played a significant role in the conservation community through leadership and financial contributions. The organizations he has been 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, have 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. Leon also demonstrates 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.
Leon has been a leader in public policy discussions about Maine’s economy through his involvement in state organizations and initiatives. He has 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 Leon the Business Hall of Fame Award for compassion, courage and commitment in business leadership. Leon has been 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. He has also received the Presidential Award from the Portland, Maine Chapter of the NAACP. Leon has also devoted his time to public education reform. He served on the campaign for the Maine Aspirations Foundation and Governor John Baldacci’s Business Advisory Council. He has received honorary degrees from Thomas College, Bates College, Wheaton College, Bowdoin College and the University of Southern Maine, and he was inducted into the Babson College Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs. Leon was selected to receive L.L.Bean’s highest internal honor, the Bean’s Best award, in 2001 in recognition of his significant contributions to the company as a leader and mentor.
In 2006, Leon 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, Leon 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.
Christopher J. McCormick, President and CEO, L.L.Bean, Inc.
Chris McCormick grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut, one of six sons of an entrepreneurial father who ran, among other businesses, a commercial packaging company. Mr. McCormick developed his interest in business early on and grew particularly fond of the family-owned aspect of his father’s organization.
In 1977, after graduating from Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut, he began his career in Marketing and accepted a position as Media Buyer with Garden Way, Inc. He became Marketing Manager and remained with the company until 1983.
Drawn to L.L.Bean particularly because it was family-owned and built on a love of the outdoors, Mr. McCormick became the company’s Assistant Advertising Manager in 1983. In the 18 years that followed, he earned a succession of promotions including, in 1991, Vice President of Advertising and Direct Marketing, in 2000, Chief Marketing Officer and, as of May, 2001, upon Leon Gorman’s move to Chairman of the Board, became the first non-family member to take on the title of President and CEO at L.L.Bean, Inc.
Under Mr. McCormick’s leadership, L.L.Bean has emerged as an industry leader in brand management, customer loyalty and marketing database systems. He launched the company’s international business, L.L.Bean’s entry into e-commerce in 1995 and, more recently, led one of the company’s largest merchandising business units.
In 2000, he completed Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program.
Mr. McCormick remains active in industry trade associations. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the National Retail Federation. He has served on the Direct Marketing Association Board of Directors, as a board member of the Mail Order Association of America, Maine Governor Baldacci’s Business Advisory Council and several National Postal Advisory boards. He has also represented the industry before the United States Congress.
His civic associations include currently serving on the Board of Trustees of the Maine Community College System and membership on Fairfield University’s Advisory Board. He formerly served as Co-Chair of the Nature Conservancy’s Corporate Conservation Council, Board Member of The Nature Conservancy, and member of the campaign cabinet for the United Way of Greater Portland.
Mr. McCormick is an avid outdoorsman and takes every opportunity to test L.L.Bean equipment in the field. Among his favorite outdoor activities are hiking, biking and shooting.