LEVENTHAL: THE GLOBAL VIEW
Byline: Stuart Chirls
NEW YORK — During his 40 years with Burlington Industries, Bernard (Bud) Leventhal, who will retire Jan. 31 as vice chairman, says he has witnessed close up an industry in dramatic transformation, moving from an insular supply pipeline for regional manufacturers into a business that knows no boundaries.
Leventhal, in an interview, credited a lot of this globalization to the ending of the Cold War. “Today, many of the countries that in the past spent so much money on defense and military buildups have had to turn those investments toward civilian industrial pursuits,” he said, “and the competition for companies like Burlington has become that much more intense. A company has to be on its toes to survive and attain a competitive advantage.”
To run this kind of business, Leventhal pointed out, a continuous stream of new young talent is needed. While there is a greater emphasis now on the development of management people to run the business, he said, he bemoaned the fact that the textile industry is not highly regarded in the financial media.
“It doesn’t fare very well at the better schools in terms of attracting the bright, young minds. We have to work on that, because they are the future of this, and any, industry,” he said.
Abraham Stenberg, an executive vice president and a director of Burlington, has been named to succeed Leventhal as vice chairman, effective Nov. 1.
Leventhal joined Burlington in 1958 and was named president of its Raeford Uniform Fabrics division in 1970. In 1978, he was named president of Burlington Menswear, where he continues to have senior management responsibility. He added the titles of corporate director in 1990, corporate executive vice president in 1993 and vice chairman in 1995.
He was one of the first textile executives to recognize the importance of strong ties among mills, apparel makers and retailers to streamline production and slash lead times.
“What attracted me to this business in the first place was how fast-moving it is,” he said. “The job is always fascinating when fashion is involved.”
After his retirement at Burlington, Leventhal will continue to be involved in the industry; he will remain chairman and chief executive officer of the Textile and Clothing Technology Corp. (TC), the research organization sponsored by government and industry.
Stenberg, who joined Burlington in 1957, will continue to have senior management responsibilities for Burlington’s interior furnishings divisions, including Burlington House, Lees, Burlington House Area Rugs and Bacova. He also will oversee Burlington Sportswear and Textiles Morelos of Mexico, two apparel divisions.