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Co-founder of Burt’s Bees says he was ousted
Question of the Day
PARKMAN, Maine (AP) - Conventional wisdom suggests the Burt behind Burt’s Bees left the company after he became disillusioned with the corporate world in North Carolina and wanted to return to his solitary life in Maine.
The reality, Burt Shavitz says, is that he was forced out by co-founder Roxanne Quimby after he had an affair with an employee.
So the man on the Burt’s Bees logo that promises “Earth-friendly natural personal care products” ended up with 37 acres in Maine, and an undisclosed sum of money.
And he’s not complaining.
“In the long run, I got the land, and land is everything. Land is positively everything. And money is nothing really worth squabbling about. This is what puts people six feet under. You know, I don’t need it,” he told a filmmaker on property where the company was launched in the 1980s.
The reclusive beekeeper whose simple life became complicated by his status as a corporate icon is now the subject of a documentary, “Burt’s Buzz,” which opens Friday in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Phoenix and Cleveland.
Interviewed by The Associated Press on his land in Maine, Shavitz declined to discuss his relationship with Quimby.
“What I have in this situation is no regret,” he said, sitting in a rocking chair. “The bottom line is she’s got her world and I’ve got mine, and we let it go at that.”
Shavitz, 79, grew up around New York, served in the Army in Germany and shot photos for Time-Life before leaving New York for the backwoods of Maine.
He was a hippie making a living by selling honey when his life was altered by a chance encounter with a hitchhiking Quimby. She was a single mother and a back-to-the-lander who impressed Shavitz with her ingenuity and self-sufficiency.
She began making products from his beeswax, and they became partners. An image of Burt’s face - and his untamed beard - was featured on labels.
The partnership ended on a sour note after the business moved in 1994 to North Carolina, where it continued to expand before Shavitz was given the boot. These days, he makes occasional promotional appearances on the company’s behalf.
In the documentary, Shavitz sounds both bitter and ambivalent.
“Roxanne Quimby wanted money and power, and I was just a pillar on the way to that success,” he said.
Quimby, who made more than $300 million when she sold the company, disagrees with any suggestion that Shavitz was treated improperly.
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