All Stories by Nancy Meyer
NEW YORK–Lighting giant Murray Feiss and his family have stepped back from the company they built over the past six decades, and are leaving a legacy of hard work and dedication.
Feiss, 81, has been praised as a visionary, whose foresight led him to transform his mother’s lampshade company into a decorative lamp maker. Then, Feiss and his sons-in-law Bob Greene and Ron Hersh built that into one of the most successful decorative full-line residential lighting companies in the industry.
In 2004, a majority stake of Murray Feiss was sold to private-equity firm Quad-C Management Inc., which then created an umbrella company to purchase majority stakes in similarly run, profitable businesses with different positions in the marketplace, Feiss said. The companies would operate individually but the back offices would be integrated.
Today, Murray Feiss is the premier brand in Generation Brands, the holding company that includes Feiss’ Royce Lighting, plus Sea Gull Lighting, Monte Carlo Fan Co., and the Encompass Group of Tech Lighting, LBL and their brands. The combined entity, with estimated 2006 sales of $410 million, is considered one of the top lighting companies.
Generation Brands had a few acquisitions in the works last year when the financial market fell apart, but when capital becomes available, “somewhere in the beginning of 2009,” Feiss estimates, the next target will be companies that service the hotel and restaurant hospitality/contract business, and even some commercial business. He said there are “at least another half-dozen companies that would fit into our family.”
Eventually, the goal is to either go public or resell the whole package, Feiss said.
“Having a CEO of my age and having the family so involved is not the most favorable way to position the company,” Feiss said. “We felt that if one of us exited, all of us should exit.”
Feiss will remain chairman of the board of Generation Brands, and his sons-in-law Greene and Hersh, former company co-presidents, will also stay on the board and offer advice on strategic direction.
Feiss attributes the success of the business to his entire family. Greene, as co-president of operations, oversaw the entire China operation, with multiple offices and factories. Until last year, Greene spent more than 30 percent of the year in China. Hersh, as co-president of administration, oversaw all the financials and internal company administrative functions.
Dorothy Feiss, his wife of 57 years, always watched the cash flow, serving as collections manager for decades, and made sure no major event in an employee, customer or sales rep’s life went unnoticed. Dorothy Feiss called and sent cards and gifts for every birth, wedding, anniversary and illness, and showed her genuine true concern for one’s family, industry sources told HFN.
The Feiss’ two daughters, June Hersh and Andrea Greene, helped out in the factory on weekends when they were young and later took responsibilities in marketing, advertising, promotion, credit and human resources.
“We all made such big sacrifices and poured everything back into the business,” Andrea Greene told HFN. She said that the family never went on vacations together; the executives never traveled on the same plane; and she and husband Bob Greene were even called back from their honeymoon to run the factory when her uncle had a heart attack. In fact, all three of their wedding anniversaries are in June, which conflicts with the Dallas Market. This year, Murray and Dorothy’s 57th anniversary falls during the Dallas Market, where Murray, Ron and Bob will be given a send-off by the industry. At home in New York, Dorothy will be given an anniversary party by her daughters and grandchildren.
“We’ll miss having this place, and the strong friendships we made with customers, the sales reps, everyone in the factory and the offices,” Andrea Greene said.
In retirement, Murray and Dorothy Feiss expect to spend time together and enjoy their home, children and grandchildren more than they were able to in the past, he said. But business matters won’t be too far away.
“We still have a very significant stake in this company and want to see it continue to succeed,” said Murray Feiss.
“We’re leaving a very strong management team that’s even stronger in some ways, and that will bring a fresh approach,” he said. “We’ve been grooming Harold Wolfson [president of Royce Lighting] and Greg Vandia [president of Murray Feiss Lighting] for those positions for several years now.”
Designers Wesley Glover and Pat Miranda will continue to provide design leadership. Additionally, the joint venture in China, which runs several factories, remains intact, Feiss pointed out. Feiss returned last month from China, where he, Vandia, Wolfson and the management team in China met with local government officials to ensure a smooth transition, even though all parties have worked together for years.
“Murray Feiss is a brand name; it’s also my name,” Feiss said. “I try to separate the two of those. It doesn’t need me to succeed.”