Leo Kahn (entrepreneur)
December 31, 1916|
May 11, 2011 (aged 94)|
Harvard University (B.A., 1938)|
Columbia University (M.A., Journalism, 1939)
|Occupation||American businessman and reporter|
|Known for||Co-founder of Staples Inc.|
|Spouse(s)||Dorothy Davids Kahn (1963-1975)|
Leo Kahn (December 31, 1916 – May 11, 2011) was an American reporter and businessman. He is credited as the co-founder of Staples Inc. Kahn is also considered a pioneer of the natural and health food supermarket industry, founding the Fresh Fields and Nature's Heartland chains, which are now part of Whole Foods Market.
Kahn was born in Medford, Massachusetts, as the youngest of two brothers. His parents, who were Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, owned a wholesale food distributor. Kahn graduated from Malden High School in Malden, Massachusetts.
Kahn received a bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1938. He then obtained a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in New York City in 1939. He worked a reporter in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and practiced public relations for political campaigns until he was drafted into the U.S. military in 1941 as the U.S. entered World War II. He was stationed in North Africa, Europe and Asia as a navigator for the Army Air Forces.
He and his brother, Albert Kahn, took over the family's wholesale business following the end of World War II. Leo Kahn became the sole owner of the business when Albert left the company to become a professor at Boston University.
Leo Kahn continued to operate his family's wholesale food distributor. However, he also launched a new grocery retailing division, which became known as Purity Supreme. The company initially opened small groceries, but then expanded to supermarkets. The Purity Supreme company also included the Heartland Foods Warehouse, which was called "the first successful deep-discount warehouse supermarket in the country" by Inc Magazine.
One Kahn's biggest rivals was Thomas G. Stemberg, the owner of a competing New England supermarket chain called First National Supermarkets. At one point, Kahn and Stemberg engaged in a price war over the lower price for Thanksgiving turkeys.
Kahn sold Purity Supreme to the Supermarkets General Corporation in 1984 for $80 million. Through the transaction, Kahn became the chairman of Supermarket General. Privately, Kahn regretted selling Purity, saying he missed the interaction with his employees.
- Marquard, Bryan (2011-05-12). "Leo Kahn, co-founder of Staples, dies at 94". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
- Shapiro, T. Rees (2011-05-14). "Leo Kahn, entrepreneur who helped found Staples office-supply business, dies at 94". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-05-22.
- Alan D. Abbey (May 23, 2011). "The Eulogizer: Staples co-founder Leo Kahn, violinist Endre Wolf". JTA. Retrieved March 27, 2013.
- » Is Leo Kahn Jewish Jew of the Week
- Martin, Douglas (2011-05-12). "Leo Kahn, Trailblazer in Big-Box Retailing, Dies at 94". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-05-22.