The Back Story Behind Burt's Bees: It Sold Out Years Ago


We and our readers were surprised and some were dismayed when Burt's Bees was sold to Clorox for $913 Million in November; The New York Times reveals that all was not going so sweetly well before this, and that Burt got the short end of the stick. It seems that Burt was living in a turkey coop when he met Roxanne Quimby in 1984; they split in 1993 and she bought him out in 1999 with a house worth $ 130,000.

She then sold 80% of the company to AEA,(according to a commenter, a buyout firm formed in 1968 by the Rockefeller, Harriman, and Mellon families) in 2003 and got $ 141 million; when Burt complained she gave him $ 4 million. She got another $150 million when it was sold to Clorox; Burt got nothing. His face is on the packaging but he is back living in a turkey coop.


CEO John Replogle proves Burts Bees is still green by dining on avocado butter hair treatment. "If you can't put it into your mouth, you shouldn't put it on your skin."

The Times notes:

By 2000, Burt's Bees was pulling in $23 million in revenue, according to the company. Ms. Quimby said she had always intended to sell the company and had received offers for quite some time before she put it up for auction in 2003. That year, AEA Investors, a private equity firm in New York, paid Ms. Quimby $141.6 million for an 80 percent stake in Burt's Bees. If Mr. Shavitz had held onto the stake he traded to Ms. Quimby for $130,000, it would have been worth about $59 million.

At the time of that deal, Mr. Shavitz demanded more money and Ms. Quimby said she agreed to pay him $4 million. Burt's Bees also pays Mr. Shavitz an undisclosed amount each year for using his name and image on its products. Through a Burt's Bees spokeswoman, Mr. Shavitz declined to comment on any payments he had received or the reasons for his fallout with Ms. Quimby. When asked if he and Ms. Quimby were still friends, Mr. Shavitz said, "Sure."

"What happened between us in our personal relationship in the past is history," he said in a statement. "The magic of living life for me is, and always has been, the magic of living on the land, not in the magic of money."

The Times continues with an update on the company today:

CEO John Replogle is maintaining "the founder's green philosophies. Employees' bonuses are based in part on how well the company meets energy conservation goals, and there are prime parking spaces for staff members who drive hybrid cars or carpool. It buys offsets for 100 percent of its carbon emissions and is working toward a goal of sending no trash to landfills by 2020.

Mr. Replogle calls his current job a "mission" and says he is trying to reinvent business with an idea he calls "the Greater Good," based on the founders' ideals. The premise is that if companies are socially responsible, profit will follow. Burt's Bees not only prioritizes the natural origin of its ingredients but also emphasizes animal rights, responsible trade, employee benefits and the environment." ::New York Times

So nothing really changed in November; Burt has been out of the picture for years.

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