Leon A. Gorman, former chairman and president of L.L. Bean, died on Sept. 3 of cancer. He was 80 years old.
The executive became president of the legendary Freeport, Maine-based outdoor-lifestyle manufacturer and retailer in 1967, following the death of his grandfather, Leon Leonwood Bean, who founded the company in 1912. During his 34 years at the company, Gorman was instrumental in evolving its sourcing and marketing capabilities and growing its retail footprint beyond its Maine base.
After his retirement in 2001, Gorman became chairman and began putting his efforts into philanthropic causes, many based in his home state, where he lived with his wife, Lisa. His nephew, Shawn Gorman, recently took over as chairman of the board.
L.L.Bean is best known for its classic L.L. Bean boot, widely known as the duck boot because its silhouette mimics a duck’s webbed foot. Originally called the Maine Hunting Shoe by its founder, the style became a must-have in 2014, embraced by young, trend-setting consumers, with the company reporting that it sold 450,000 pairs that year.
L.L. Bean produces the boots exclusively in its Lewiston, Maine, facility, with the leather uppers cut and stitched in Brunswick, Maine.
In an article in the Portland Press Herald in December 2014, company spokesperson Carolyn Beem said the boot got a shot of unexpected publicity from Manolo Blahnik, which helped to spark sales. He was quoted in a fashion blog saying, “Tell someone to go and get me one pair of L.L. Beans, because I cannot walk in the street” due to the harsh weather in New York that winter.
Today, L.L. Bean has 5,200 year-round employees, operates 22 retail stores outside Maine and distributes its catalog to almost 170 countries, according to the company.