Leo Gans, a veteran list compiler and founder of National Business Lists, died March 4 in Palm Springs, CA. He was 89.
Gans founded Chicago-based NBL in 1958 and remained at the helm of the company until selling it to Market Data Retrieval and retiring in 1984.
“Leo was one of the deans of the direct mail industry,” said James F. Bernard, who served as executive vice president of NBL in the late 1960s until the company's sale. “Leo really established the business-to-business database. We were one of the earliest, if not the earliest, to use the computer for compiling.”
When Gans started NBL, his only real competitor was Dun & Bradstreet, which went on to acquire Market Data Retrieval about a year after it had purchased NBL, Bernard said.
Many well-known direct marketing professionals spent time working with Gans, including Ed Burnett and Direct Media Inc. chairman David W. Florence.
After getting hired by Gans, Florence started an East Coast office for NBL and worked for the company for about five years.
“He was my first boss in the list industry,” Florence said of Gans. “He was a brilliant man, and he taught me an awful lot. He taught me to tell the truth if something was wrong with our product and the customer complained. He wouldn't try to duck around it, he would just step up and say, 'we made a mistake, and we will get it corrected.'”
Florence left NBL to start Direct Media with Gans' blessing in 1969.
Gans is survived by his wife, Carole; sons Phillip and Richard; daughters Barbara Tversky, Judith Anderson, Jill Hesler and Audrey Schulruff; and 12 grandchildren.
A private service for family members and friends will be held in Palm Springs, and a memorial service will be held in Chicago at a later date. Gans split his time between the two cities.