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Subject: Leonard Lavin dies at 97, founder of Alberto-Culver (Alberto VO5, Nexxus, etc...)

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Date Posted: Monday, August 07, 07:40:56pm


Leonard Lavin, a member of the Greatest Generation who participated in numerous Pacific landings during World War II, an entrepreneur who grew a single product into an international consumer goods powerhouse, a pioneer who changed the face of television, and a loving, caring family man passed away this week. He was 97. In 1955 Lavin borrowed the money to buy a small professional beauty supply company on the West Coast because he saw the potential in one hair care product they were selling to movie studios to protect hair against harsh set lighting -- Alberto VO5 Hairdressing. Its first year, company sales were $100,000. At the time of its sale to Unilever PLC in 2011, Alberto Culver, the company that grew from that start through the tenacity, television savvy and entrepreneurial risk taking of Leonard Lavin, had sales of $1.5 billion, employed 3,500 people and sold its products in over 100 countries. Throughout a significant portion of its history, Alberto Culver also owned Sally Beauty Company, the largest distributor of professional beauty supplies in the world. Sally was spunoff as a standalone public company in 2006. Prior to the spinoff, Alberto Culver had grown Sally, purchased in the late 1960s from less than a dozen stores to over 3200. Combined the two companies had sales in excess of $3 billion. Lavin was one of the first entrepreneurs to recognize the impact television would have on consumer goods sales. He bought the initial sponsorship in some of television's pioneering shows such as What's My Line? and The Smothers Brothers Show. As television advertising evolved, he fought the television networks virtually on his own and became the first advertiser to win the right to use his concept: 30-second commercials rather than the minute length that had been the only acceptable standard. That victory in 1972 changed the face of television for all advertisers, consumers, networks and stations. Product innovation and acquisition were a key ingredient in the company's success. Lavin expanded the Alberto VO5 name into major lines of shampoo, conditioner, and styling products. The company portfolio also included hair care lines TRESemme and Nexxus, the skin care lines St. Ives, Noxzema and Simple, and a range of products for women of color including Motions, Soft & Beautiful and Just for Me. The company developed such household names as Mrs. Dash and Static Guard in its own research laboratories. In 1994, Mr. Lavin turned the management of the company over to a second family generation. At that time, he was recognized as the oldest entrepreneurial founder of a company to have successfully initiated and managed such a transition to his daughter, Carol Lavin Bernick. He was honored throughout his career with many awards recognizing his sales and marketing savvy and civic commitment. He was elected a laureate of Illinois' Lincoln Academy, the highest honor the state can give a native-born resident. Most recently he was honored with an honorary doctorate from San Diego State University. He has regularly lectured and mentored students at the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center at SDSU and at the University of Washington's Lavin Entrepreneurship Program. Leonard Lavin, with his wife and business partner Bernice, were active members of the Chicago philanthropic community. Lavin served on the Northwestern Hospital Board of Directors where today the hospital campus is home to the Lavin Family Pavilion and the Bernice E. Lavin Day Care Center. The Lavins have offered a helping hand to many charitable groups and programs through the Alberto Culver Company giving program and personal family foundations focused on the three areas of most interest to the Lavins -- education, health care and rehabilitative programs and issues facing women and their families. The Lavins were successful breeders, trainers and racers of thoroughbred horses. In 2001, their Ocala, Florida-based Glen Hill Farm was named Florida Breeder of the Year for the second consecutive year. The farm has produced numerous stakes winners including the 1994, Breeders' Cup Distaff winner, his filly One Dreamer. Today, Glen Hill Farm is under the direction of Craig Bernick, the Lavins' grandson. Bernice Lavin passed away in 2007. Mr. Lavin is survived by two children - Carol Lavin Bernick and Karen Lavin, four grandchildren and their spouses: Craig and Lindsey Bernick, Peter and Barbara Bernick, Liz and Dan Huber, Preston Lavin and his partner Tom Flagler and six great-grandchildren - Cora, Alexander, Scotty, Edie, Sebastian, and Abby. A son, Scott, is deceased. Salesman, advertiser, builder, innovator, entrepreneur, horseman, philanthropist and an incredibly caring family man -- Leonard Lavin brought distinction to every endeavor he touched. Services and interment will be private. There will be a public celebration of Mr. Lavin's life on Thursday, August 10 at the Ritz-Carlton, Chicago at 4:00 pm with a cocktail reception following. Friends of the family, members of the Alberto family and the charitable groups he has touched are welcome. In lieu of flowers, please make a contribution to the charity of your choice.

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Leonard H. Lavin & Alberto-Culver Wiki pagesLinkMonday, August 07, 07:42:45pm

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