Freeport's L.L. Bean honors former chairman

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FREEPORT — L.L. Bean celebrated the leadership of Chairman Emeritus Leon Gorman last week with the presentation of a portrait of Gorman by artist Jon Friedman.

Gorman, the grandson of company founder and namesake Leon Leonwood Bean, received the portrait in a ceremony May 15 at Bean’s corporate headquarters. The portrait shows Gorman, wearing L.L. Bean clothing head to toe, in the woods with his two dogs.

While accepting the painting, Gorman, who became president of the company in 1967 before retiring in 2001 and becoming chairman, spoke of why L.L. Bean has been so successful.

“L.L. Bean is a values-based company,” he said. “Treat your customers like human beings and they will always come back for more.”

Gorman’s daughter, Jennifer Wilson, spoke of how this philosophy matches Gorman’s personality and how it is displayed in the portrait.

“My dad’s personality and values have become so closely entwined with the organization that he built, and the main question was how could one single portrait capture the essence of both the public and the private side of his personality,” Wilson said. “I’m pleased to say the portrait we have to share today exceeds all of our expectations.”

Friedman, who addressed L.L. Bean executives and Gorman’s family while wearing signature Bean boots, said he enjoyed painting the president of one of the most “iconic companies in the United States.”

Friedman described the process of taking pictures of Gorman and his dogs, who “dashed through the thickets and cannonballed into the water” on a rainy October day in 2013. He said he took more than 600 photos, which he then used to paint his subject.

Friedman said before he left Freeport he asked Gorman to show him L.L. Bean’s shipping facility, and that’s where he gained a true sense of the company and Gorman’s role in it.

“Even though Leon has stepped back from the day-to-day supervision of the company, all of the workers at the plant seemed to know Leon and he greeted many of them by their first names,” Friedman said. “I thought it was a remarkable testament to the loyalty, respect, and trust that characterizes the relationship between the stakeholders in this company.”

Gorman said although the company has changed and grown over the years, its essence has remained the same. He said his grandfather would be happy with the company as it is today.

“Over the years, people have asked me what L.L. would say if he could see the company today,” Gorman said. “I have no hesitation in saying he would be pleased and proud.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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L.L. Bean Chairman Emeritus Leon Gorman accepted his portrait, right, by artist Jon Friedman, while standing in front of a portrait of his grandfather, Leon Leonwood Bean.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.