Leonard H. Lavin is the founder, Chairman Emeritus and a director of the Alberto-Culver Company (NYSE: ACV), a $1.4 billion company which manufactures, markets and distributes beauty, personal care and household/grocery products in over 120 countries. Alberto-Culver’s leading global personal care products include Alberto VO5, TRESemme, St. Ives, Nexxus, Soft & Beautiful, Motions and Just For Me and a group of important regional brands The company also markets leading household and grocery products including Mrs. Dash and Static Guard, and operates a custom label beauty products manufacturing operation.
Until November, 2006 the company operated Sally Beauty Company and its Beauty Systems Group in addition to its consumer products unit. Alberto-Culver acquired Sally, a small chain in New Orleans, in 1969 and grew it into the largest distributor of professional beauty products in the world with over 3300 stores. Combined, the consumer products and beauty distribution businesses had sales of $3.75 billion. Late in 2006, the company separated these operations into separately-traded public companies, Alberto-Culver Company and Sally Beauty Holdings (NYSE: SBH).
Mr. Lavin began his career with Lucien Lelong after graduation from the University of Washington. He entered the Navy prior to World War II and served four years of sea duty, participating in nine invasions.
In 1946 he joined Halgar, Inc., a company specializing in toiletries products. He advanced up the ranks, became second in command, and helped build the organization into a major entity. He left Halgar to form the Excello Sales Agency with exclusive selling and advertising rights for a new spray deodorant that soon became the leading antiperspirant in the U.S. After the product became number one in its category, Mr. Lavin sold his interests and formed Leonard H. Lavin & Company, a national company responsible for sales, distribution, advertising and promotion of nationally known toiletry and proprietary products. He then returned to Halgar and purchased the company.
After several years, Leonard H. Lavin & Company grew to become a major factor in the health and beauty aids industry. Mr. Lavin had further expanded his business by purchasing several national manufacturing companies in this field.
In 1955, Mr. Lavin bought the Alberto-Culver Company, at the time a regional manufacturer of professional beauty supplies serving the West Coast. He discontinued all of the company's products except for one -- Alberto VO5 Conditioning Hairdressing. This product was the key to his acquisition and the brand on which he rapidly built the company.
The company has grown from a one product firm to an international organization that manufactures worldwide, sells products in more than 100 countries with annual sales of over three billion dollars. It became a public company in 1961 and has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since 1965. Alberto-Culver is one of the leaders in the packaged goods field and a major national advertiser. The company has earned a reputation for innovation, both in new product development and advertising, and since 1955 has created and built numerous new product categories in the toiletries and household/grocery markets.
Mr. Lavin has been a true innovator in the advertising area. He was among the first package goods marketers to recognize the value of television in building brands. He bought initial sponsorship in some of television's pioneering shows such as "What's My Line" and "The Smothers Brothers Show". It was his concept, and his fight through the courts that brought the 30-second, and the 15-second commercial to television.
He has been active in many professional and philanthropic organizations. He is a lifetime trustee of Northwestern Memorial Hospital and a former director of Continental Illinois Bank Corporation. He is a lifetime trustee of the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center and serves on the board of Junior Achievement and on the Museum of Science and Industry President's Council. He is a member of the Chicago Crime Commission, Economic Club of Chicago, Executives' Club of Chicago, Mid-America Committee, Chicago Club, Commercial Club and the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.
He has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors for his philanthropic, civic and business endeavors. Early in his career he was presented with a Gold Medal as the International Marketing Man of the Year, in 1988 he was named "Citizen of the Year" by the City Club of Chicago, in 1989 he was presented with the "Marketing Statesman of the Year" award by the Sales and Marketing Executives of Chicago, in 1990 he received the Steuart Henderson Britt Award for Marketing Achievement from the American Marketing Association, and in 1993 he was inducted into the Merchandising Executives Club Hall of Fame and the Junior Achievement Chicago Business Hall of Fame, in 1995 was inducted into the Chicagoland Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame and this year was given a “Lifetime Achievement Award in Entrepreneurship” by Ernst & Young as a part of their Entrepreneur of the Year Awards program. By appointment of the Governor of Illinois, Mr. Lavin was named a Lincoln Laureate, the highest honor the state can give to its native-born citizens.
In 1992, Prentice Women's Hospital and Maternity Center opened the Alberto-Culver Women's Health Center, a state-of-the-art library, education and conference facility which provides health information to women regardless of their ability to pay. Mr. and Mrs. Lavin, and their daughter Carol, have been the guiding forces behind this effort.
Mr. Lavin is also actively involved in thoroughbred horse breeding. He is proprietor of Glen Hill Farm in Ocala, Florida, home base for the horse breeding, racing and selling business he has built into a significant presence in the thoroughbred industry. Glen Hill Farm's One Dreamer won the 1994 Breeder's Cup Distaff. Here also Mr. and Mrs. Lavin are active in philanthropic activities. A major study of jockey and trainer injuries conducted by the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and funded by the Lavins was presented at the University of Arizona's Symposium on Racing in December 1994 and published in 1995.
Mr. Lavin’s memoirs Winners Make It Happen: Reflections of a Self-Made Man were published in 2003 by Bonus books. He currently lectures in the Entrepreneurship program at San Diego State University in California.
Business Address: 2525 W. Armitage, Melrose Park, IL 60160
Home: Glencoe, IL
Date & Place of Birth: October 29, 1919 -- Chicago, IL
Marital Status: Married 55 years; 3 children -- Scott (deceased), Carol and Karen
Educational Background: University of Washington; Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from DePaul University, Honorary MBA from the University of Washington Business School.
Military Service: 4 years U.S. Navy -- 1941-45 (9 Invasions)
Political Affiliation: Independent
He can be reached at (708) 450-3000.