Lands’ End: Gary C. Comer, Lands’ End Founder and Philanthropist, Dies At 78

DODGEVILLE, Wis., Oct. 5 /PRNewswire/ — Gary C. Comer, Lands’ End founder, noted philanthropist and environmental advocate, died on October 4, 2006 at his home in Chicago.

“All of us at Lands’ End are deeply saddened. Our thoughts are with Gary’s wife, Frances and the entire family,” said Lands’ End President David McCreight. “American business has lost an icon. Gary Comer was a visionary entrepreneur, whose passion for excellence created a legendary company. His adventurous spirit, environmental stewardship and legacy of philanthropic leadership continue to inspire us.”

Comer grew up an avid sailor on Chicago’s South Side. His love of sailboat racing and his entrepreneurial spirit came together when, at age 33, he gave up a 10-year career as an advertising copywriter at Young & Rubicam to start his own company.

In 1962, he started a mail-order sailing equipment business. In 1963, Comer and five partners incorporated Lands’ End Yacht Stores in a rent-free basement office on Chicago’s north side. The misplaced apostrophe was a typo that became part of the firm’s history. By 1965, they had begun to make a small profit and they printed their first catalogue, which became an industry legend with its clever and tight writing.

In 1978, Comer moved the warehouse and phone operations to Dodgeville. In 1986, Lands’ End went public. As Lands’ End grew, so did the company’s reputation for high-quality products and innovative customer service. In 1989, Fortune magazine featured Comer under the headline, “How to get the customer to love you.”

While he stepped down as president in 1990, Comer remained chairman of the board and the majority stockholder until Lands’ End was sold to Sears in May 2002. Today, Lands’ End is a leading multi-channel direct apparel retailer.

Perhaps best known among their many philanthropic contributions are those by Gary and Frances Comer to the University of Chicago and its hospitals. In 2001, they donated $21 million to help build the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital, a gift that matched the largest donation ever presented to the University of Chicago Hospitals.

Reflecting his commitment to a wide range of efforts to deepen the understanding of human activity on the environment, Comer and the Comer Science and Education Foundation donated $18 million to Columbia University in 2005 in support of geochemistry research at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

CONTACT: Michele Casper, Lands’ End, +1-608-935-4633 Profile: Wisconsin News