Harold Leppo, a former apparel executive who had worked for Lord & Taylor, Filene’s and many other retailers over his more than four-decade career, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 74.
Leppo, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, worked his way up to SVP/GMM at Filene’s in Boston, running Filene’s Basement for them until 1977. As president and COO of Lord & Taylor, he was instrumental in the chain’s national expansion. After that, he was EVP/chief merchandising officer at Allied Stores, and later served as interim CEO of Casual Male. He served on the boards of a number of companies, including Salant Corporation and Bradlees. In retirement, he joined Financo for a while. He also started his own firm, Harold Leppo & Co. Retail Consultants, through which he ran Burberry USA for a short time.
“He was a giant in a 39-short suit,” said Daniel Leppo, Harold Leppo’s son and a VP/DMM of menswear at Bloomingdale’s. “One of the quotes that came out in a eulogy from a friend of his who knew him later in life was, ‘If you knew Hal, you knew that he made the Energizer Bunny look like he was on Valium!’ The qualities he really cared about were loyalty and friendship, and the one thing he hated more than anything was wasted talent. He was a self-made man who came from modest means.”
Remembering his father’s career, Daniel Leppo added, “One of the most impressive things to me and my sister about his career was that he avoided the liquidation of Casual Male. We didn’t really know about it at the time—I was thinking of it as a side job; he wasn’t. Years later, we found a book full of all the cards from the employees of Casual Male stores all over the country, thanking my father for saving their jobs. For me, that was very powerful.”
Stuart Glasser, CEO of Jordache and a longtime friend, said, “I was working at Macy’s when Harold hired me as GMM of men’s at Lord & Taylor, where I spent ten years with him and we’ve been friends ever since. He had a great sense of humor and was a very fair and open person. A good leader and a good merchant. He was the real deal.”
Another friend of many years, furnishings designer Bert Pulitzer, said, “He was a great merchant. Wherever he went, product was first, but he was always a good numbers guy. At the funeral, the one common thread was everyone talked about his great sense of humor. Everyone of us felt like his best friend.”
Harold Leppo is survived by his wife of 44 years, Elaine; his children Sara and Daniel and their spouses; and three granddaughters.
A funeral was held in Stamford, Conn. this morning at Temple Sinai. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his honor to The West End House Camp for Boys, a non-profit overnight camp in Maine (www.westendhousecamp.org) or the Lung Cancer Research Fund, c/o Dr. Mark B Stoopler, Columbia University Medical Center, 161 Fort Washington Ave., Room 206, New York, NY, 10032.