The mane man: Lavin loved hair and horses

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST -

RIVERFOREST, ILL.» Leonard Lavin, who built a small beauty sup­ply firm into the bil­lion-dol­lar Al­berto-cul­ver com­pany and owned a suc­cess­ful horse breed­ing, train­ing and rac­ing op­er­a­tion, has died.

He was 97.

Lavin died Wed­nes­day at a fam­ily home in the Chicago sub­urb of River For­est from com­pli­ca­tions of pneu­mo­nia, fam­ily spokesman Dan Stone said Fri­day.

Lavin cre­ated Al­ber­tocul­ver Co. af­ter bor­row­ing money in 1955 to pur­chase a beauty sup­ply com­pany that sold Al­berto VO5 hair­dress­ing prod­uct, ac­cord­ing to a fam­ily obituary.

Lavin ex­panded the com­pany to in­clude other well­known hair-care lines such as Nexxus and Tre­semme. Al­berto-cul­ver also owned Sally Beauty Sup­ply, which be­came its own com­pany in 2006.

Al­berto-cul­ver was sold to Unilever PLC in 2011. At the time, it had sales of $1.5 bil­lion, em­ployed 3,500 peo­ple and sold prod­ucts in more than 100 coun­tries, the fam­ily obituary said.

Lavin also saw suc­cess in thor­ough­bred rac­ing with his 400-acre Glen Hill Farm in Ocala, Fla., which has pro­duced sev­eral stakes win­ners, in­clud­ing 1994 Breed­ers’ Cup Distaff win­ner One Dreamer. The filly paid $96.20 to win in the race that was spon­sored by Al­berto-cul­ver.

Glen Hill was twice named Florida Breeder of the Year.

In 2015, Lavin re­ceived the Eclipse Award of Merit, a life­time achieve­ment award from the horse rac­ing in­dus­try.

Lavin raced horses from coast-to-coast over the years, es­pe­cially in Chicago, Florida and Cal­i­for­nia. He won more than 30 stakes at Del Mar, the sea­side track north of San Diego. Glen Hill has earned over $20 mil­lion in purses since 2000.

Lavin’s grand­son, Craig Ber­nick, had taken over Glen Hill as pres­i­dent in re­cent years. Their filly, West Coast Bias, won a race at Del Mar on Thurs­day.

Lavin was born in Chicago in 1919. He served in the U.S. Navy dur­ing World War II, par­tic­i­pat­ing in nu­mer­ous Pa­cific land­ings, his fam­ily said. He earned and re­ceived many honors, in­clud­ing the Order of Lin­coln Medal­lion, the high­est honor given by the state of Illi­nois.

Lavin au­thored the book “Win­ners Make It Hap­pen: Re­flec­tions of a Self-made Man.”

He was pre­ceded in death by Ber­nice, his wife of 60 years, who died in 2007. She was an ex­ec­u­tive of Al­berto-cul­ver and played an im­por­tant role in the com­pany’s suc­cess.

The cou­ple was noted for their phi­lan­thropy.

They en­dowed a schol­ar­ship for in­ner city Chicago stu­dents at Lewis Univer­sity in sub­ur­ban Romeoville, and en­tre­pre­neur­ial pro­grams at San Diego State Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton, Lavin’s alma mater.

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